Ex-holiday rep defies dyslexia to pass nursing degree with flying colours
A private celebration in the garden of her grandparents’ home in Broughton is being planned by a former holiday rep from Flintshire who has overcome dyslexia to gain a first class honours degree in her nursing course.
Well-travelled Natalie Fraser, 31, is one of the latest cohort of student nurses from Bangor University’s Wrexham campus to move onto the nursing front line.
The former beauty therapist and travel agency rep can’t wait until next summer’s degree ceremony to celebrate her achievement with her grandparents, John and Sheila Fraser, who brought her up in Broughton, near Chester.
The former St David’s School, Saltney, pupil has swapped the holiday hotspots of Tenerife and Egypt to be part of the team on the surgical ward at Ysbyty Maelor in Wrexham, after graduating from her three-year course with flying colours.
Natalie has paid tribute to Bangor University for helping her overcome her learning disorder: “I had to pay £150 to take a test to establish I had dyslexia but when that came back positive the university couldn’t have done more for me,” she said.
“It was the best money I’ve ever spent because they put me forward for special intervention and I had so much support and equipment.
“They provided me with a laptop with special software and with a pen that would record as well as write when it touched the paper so I could listen again to lectures and my personal tutor, Dianne Rimmer, has always been there for me on an academic or a personal level.
“Because of the pandemic my graduation has been put back to next summer but in any case we’ll have our own ceremony at home.”
That has delighted her grandparents and John Fraser said: “We’re really proud of her, as we are of all our kids and grandkids. She’s worked so hard and she’s had great support from Bangor University.
“Natalie has the sort of disposition that enables her to empathise with people whether they’re patients or staff and all her placements have said how they’d love to have her back and that’s a testimony to the kind of person she is.”
Natalie’s new career is a far cry from the beauty therapist’s course she originally went on after leaving school at 16 or her job as a travel rep for holiday giant Thomson.
She said: “I did the beauty therapy course because I thought that’s what girls did and I was a travel rep because I needed to experience a bit of the world – I was too immature for nursing then.
“But when I came back I did a one-year access course for the nursing degree and then the three-year degree course.
“I am dyslexic and although I didn’t exactly struggle academically I did have to work really hard to keep up. It comes naturally to some people but not to me.
“Then travelling made me really appreciate what the NHS means to us. I was on a bus in Vietnam and a local man told me his father had cancer. He said if you had money you would be OK but if you don’t you die.”
The arrival of the pandemic in her final year has meant some disruption to the course but Natalie has still had a variety of experience in the NHS in North East Wales.
It includes working on surgical, medical and stroke wards at Ysbyty Maelor, time with health visitors and in outpatient clinics, a spell at Deeside Community Hospital and district nursing in Buckley.
She said: “I’ve enjoyed it all and they’ve all had different experiences but there’s something very personal about visiting someone in their own home and I found that most rewarding.
“You see the pressures on NHS staff but also the teamwork and the support, the way everyone tries to help each other.
“I was always told I wasn’t academic and for me coming out with a first is such a big thing because I never had the confidence I would achieve that.
“With my dyslexia I need to be shown how to do something but once I’ve got it then I’ve got it forever.”
Natalie’s tutor, Dianne Rimmer, Health Sciences lecturer at Bangor University’s Wrexham campus and a former Matron, said: “It hurts my heart when I hear that children are told in school that they are not academic. People remember these words throughout their entire lives.
“Natalie is living proof that with dedication and hard work, all of us, including someone with dyslexia can achieve a first class degree.
“Her grandparents are rightly proud of the kind and clever woman that Natalie has become. She is a gentle, caring person who has a fabulous career ahead of her.
“As her personal tutor I will be watching her development in the years to come, perhaps she will return to us as a lecturer one day.”
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