A big family was no barrier to student Alley’s big dream

Date 18.09.2019

Age, being out of formal education and having a large family are no barriers to achieving your professional dreams, according to one student who is one step closer to hers.

Alley Eyre is just about to start the second year of her degree in Adult Nursing, something that very nearly didn’t happen.

An off-the-cuff conversation nudged her on a long road to achieve her ambition, the spark of inspiration coming from a friend’s son who was admitted to hospital some years before.

Alley explains: “His parents had received one of those phone calls a parent never wants to take – that their child had developed a sudden and very serious illness –  so I was at the hospital to support them and talk to their son.

“Sadly, he later died but one thing he said struck me – and I think back on it as my ‘lightbulb’ moment – was ‘You’re good at this, calming people and explaining things. Do it, be a nurse’. Now, I feel I am finally honouring that pledge even if it’s taken longer than I imagined.”

After leaving high school and working in various jobs – even having a go at running her own business –  the degree life only got going after she had completed other qualifications to get her back on the academic ladder, the final one being an Access course last year.

Studying for the degree has had its challenges, not least when you have seven children: “The youngest is 11 and the eldest is 26 so although not everyone lives at home, they all have their own individual lives and I’m involved in some way or another. They’ve all been fantastically helpful and supportive but their comments go from some thinking my nurse training is amazing while the others think I’m mad for doing it!

“But it has worked as I think it’s also important that ‘student mum’ doesn’t take over in the house – family means quality time so I make sure everyone gets the opportunity to indulge the things they love. It requires a bit more organisation than the average mum has to do but with communication, communication and a bit more communication, we get there in the end.”

Alley feels inspired by the profession already and is fired up for a future: “This is the best thing I’ve ever done. There were some niggling things when I started the degree, but the support teams at the University and my fellow students have been worth their weight in gold.

“I’m based at Kettering General and even if I’m left exhausted at the end of the day, I still leave with the best feeling. Whatever has happened, the positive words from my patients leave me a sense of calm and happiness. It’s lovely to think back on that when I get back home.

Despite being in her middle years, Alley staunchly believes that this should not factor in to anyone’s decision about whether to go into higher education: “Age isn’t something that entered my head when I started the degree. If you can climb the ladder and achieve your goal – whether in nursing or wherever – then you have to go for it.

“Something I’d like to do – graduation permitting, of course! – is to visit schools and colleges and other places and talk to people about why nursing is such a valuable career and not letting age or other personal factors stop you getting on that road to where you want to be. You may not have as many good years in nursing ahead of you as your younger colleagues, but they are still good years that will benefit patients like my friend’s son.”


The University of Northampton now run three intakes of Adult Nursing throughout the year. New students can start in October, January or April.

If you want to join Alley as an Adult Nursing student, see the University’s course page for more.