Ian Lewis has found a job with meaning after a family trip to hospital inspired him to make a change
A dedicated veteran has celebrated his graduation from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), after his daughter’s operation at Cumberland Infirmary inspired him to change career paths.
Originally from Liverpool, 33-year-old Ian Lewis joined the Royal Navy at the age of 19, and thought he’d be in the Armed Forces for life. But just four years later, he was made redundant, leaving him feeling uncertain about the future.
Following his transition out of the military, Ian enjoyed success in managerial roles; but he wanted to find a role with more meaning – and when Jessica, his now 11-year-old daughter, needed an operation, the incredible care she received gave Ian the career inspiration he was looking for.
Ian quickly applied for a role at his local hospital trust and was employed within the theatre department; it was there he learned that the NHS staff who had made such an impression on him during Jessica’s hospital stay were in fact Operating Department Practitioners (ODPs).
Ian says: “I saw how these members of staff play a major role in the whole process of a person’s operation, providing high standards of skilled care and support during each phase – from anaesthetic, through surgery, and into recovery. I knew that working towards making this my career would be hugely rewarding and decided to go for it.”
Starting his Degree Apprenticeship in Operating Department Practice, Ian chose to study at UCLan as one of only a small handful of universities that offer this course through a combination of working and studying.
It looked like it was all going to be smooth sailing for Ian, who now lives with his family in Whitehaven, Cumbria – until March 2020, when the global Covid pandemic hit and hospitals all over the UK found themselves in the eye of the storm. Operating lists at West Cumberland hospital, where Ian was working, were cancelled, and the operating department was converted into an auxiliary Intensive Care Unit to meet the demand of increasing numbers of Covid-19 patients who needed ventilator support.
"I knew that working towards making this my career would be hugely rewarding and decided to go for it."— UCLan graduate Ian Lewis
For a total of three months, Ian worked as part of the Intensive Care Unit, still in the capacity of Student Operating Department Practitioner, but while also being supervised in carrying out critical care tasks. This was a big change for Ian, and he had to adapt quickly: to a new work environment, and to new shift patterns of 12 hours at a time. It was an unprecedented and challenging time for many, and for Ian, it made finding the balance between work/study/personal life a difficult one. He adds: “It was my family, colleagues and tutors who all provided an essential support network that helped me get through the course during this time. Without them, I couldn’t have done it.”
But do it he did - and he praises the course for the in-depth understanding it gave him of how the human body works and responds to different stresses like illness, anaesthesia, and drugs. He could then learn how to best apply that knowledge to help make patients’ experience in hospital as positive as possible.
Ian is now working as a qualified Anaesthetic Operating Department Practitioner at West Cumberland Hospital and hopes to continue honing his skills as a dependable member of the theatre team.
Summarising his feelings as he graduates from UCLan, Ian says:
“I’m really proud and excited about being at the start of a career which I’m genuinely passionate about. Making the change to this job feels like I’m giving something back and helping people, rather than just chasing profits.
“I understand that when any patient comes into the operating theatre, they are often incredibly nervous and vulnerable; I really want to do everything I can to help them through that time and provide them with the highest standard of care. That’s what motivates me most now. I also look forward to taking everything I’ve learned and using it to mentor future ODP students, so they can develop their knowledge and skills as I have.
“I am really grateful to be where I am today, and I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the support of my family, especially my wife Lindsey and daughters Jessica and Chloe, my colleagues, and the tutors from UCLan.”
"I’m really proud and excited about being at the start of a career, which I’m genuinely passionate about. I look forward to taking everything I’ve learned and using it to mentor future ODP students, so they can develop their knowledge and skills, as I have. "— Ian Lewis