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My Cardiff

Maggie Furness

Maggie Furness, retired director of nursing education, recounts her long history with Cardiff University.

Maggie Furness

Maggie Furness

At the tender age of 15, I began my training as a nurse. But it wasnít until I was 34 that I came to Cardiff University to study for my certificate of education.

I sat on the course in the summers of 1983 and 1984 with people from the forces, builders, hairdressers, cooks, nurses, and anybody who needed to be taught how to teach their particular subject. There is such value in listening to your peers. I learned how to build a brick wall, do a manicure, change plugs in a car, and cook a meal in a catering kitchen. In return, I taught my fellow classmates things like changing nappies and feeding babies.

After teaching nursing for eight years, I decided to join a Masterís course in ethics at Cardiff University. The interesting thing about Cardiff University for me is that I came to it not having had the typical university life. I matriculated on the basis of my nursing qualifications at the age of 43. I didnít have the typical three-year university experience my husband, Mark, had had at Cambridge. My daughter pointed out the other day I had not actually attended university for three years continuously. I said, well, yes I have, but itís been in bits. The important thing to remember is that anyone at any age can go to university. Go for it, and the university will support you.

My proudest accomplishment was getting my Masterís degree. My degree in ethics was so different from nursing. It was amazingly mind spreading. I dug into depths I didnít think I had, and learnt from the great ethicists that came before me. Then I applied it to my subject: nursing. The caring and empathy role may come naturally to people who are attracted to nursing. But they need to be able to think about what theyíre doing and why theyíre doing it. Nurses are no longer handmaidens the way Florence Nightingale was. We are thinking, doing people who use a research base for our practice.

Whilst studying on the course, I began my time as a nurse lecturer in ethics. The university was merging with the University of Wales College of Medicine and the nursing programme was changing. We began giving lectures in addition to practically-based teaching. For the first time, we were in lecture halls with up to 250 students. This coincided with what was then called Project 2000 in 1992, and we were way ahead of ourselves.

The very first day of our Project 2000 course, a friend and I decided to put on a completely different lecture and break the mould. We chose a Tina Turner record called ĎSimply the Bestí and persuaded the technician to put it on very loud in the lecture theatre. Dressed up as Tina Turner with black tights and miniskirts, we walked in dancing to the music. The students were absolutely gob smacked. They didnít know what was coming. And of course what came was simply the best of the next three years of their degree programme.

After 42 years of service within the NHS and Cardiff University, I retired in 2007 from my lecturer role within the nursing programme. The great reward is becoming a part of this august institution, as my son David was as a journalism undergraduate. Before I began, I used to see the great edifices of the university in Cathays Park. Then, suddenly, I became part of this amazing piece of history. Long may Cardiff Universityís rich history continue.

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