Midwifery student Jessica overcomes losing her mum and leaving home to excel at University of Northampton
The path to studying midwifery at the University of Northampton has been particularly challenging for one student.
Jessica Perkins overcame losing her mother at the age of 15, leaving home and having to dictate the answers to her A-Level exams because of severe burns to her hands.
But the undergrad from Liverpool has overcome everything to be excelling in her course and in her part-time work at Northampton General Hospital (NGH).
“I was very, very close to my mum. She had multiple sclerosis (MS) and had been ill throughout her life, but losing her when I was so young was a real body blow," she said.
“We were like best friends and talked about and shared everything, including one really deep and personal conversation when I was 13.
"It floored me at the time but, looking back, it actually ‘made’ me."
Going back to school was tough for Jessica, who felt her classmates look at her differently although she felt a new sense of purpose to help others.
She earned eight GCSEs but her grades took a turn as she did not have a good relationship with her father's new partner.
“It got bad enough that I left home and lived in supported accommodation alongside people who were a bit older than me," she said.
"They were messy and noisy when all I wanted to do was get my head down and study.
“It seemed the police were called out every weekend so perhaps with all of the distractions I didn’t have my sensible head on when, the week before I took my exams, I extinguished a small oil fire in a frying pan by running it under a cold tap.
“I suffered severe burns to my hands that had to be bandaged. I couldn’t write the answers to the exam questions and had to dictate them. That was a really weird experience.”
Jessica's ambition to become a midwife came from her mum, who dreamed of being a midwife but the MS stopped her from following the same path.
“She added that before I was born, she had two stillbirths and her experience of some of the midwives wasn’t good, that they didn’t communicate well she felt she wasn’t being listened to," Jessica said.
“I was gobsmacked by what she said, but what I clearly remember is that she still spoke with passion about midwifery.
"It was difficult not to start feeling interested in midwifery myself.”
Although Jessica did not quite get the A-Level results she wanted, she took a punt on studying some distance from home and came for an interview at the University of Northampton.
“At Northampton, the student midwives just oozed with pride in being here," she said.
"I scored well on the interview and, coincidentally, received confirmation of my acceptance on the course on the anniversary of mum’s death.
"It felt like she was sat on my shoulder cheering me on and that I was absolutely meant to study here.”
In her work as a healthcare assistant at NGH, Jessica has been true to the promise she made for her mum by making sure she always communicates thoroughly and compassionately.
So much so that senior hospital staff have recommended her for ambassadorial roles to help promote the profession.
This has included being the student representative for a national podcast about midwifery careers in which Jessica answered questions from an audience of under-16s.
“Studying midwifery is such a huge responsibility because the role is very demanding and emotional – you are laughing one minute and crying the next," she said.
"I’ve suggested posting motivational reminder notes in the areas around the hospital where we go to chill and decompress that say: ‘you’ve got this!’
"That statement sums up midwives, my experiences so far and what I know my mum will be thinking about me, too.”