From detective to mental health nurse – new student’s change of career

Thursday 12 September 2013

A new student at the University of Salford is swapping a career as a detective dealing with some of the most serious crimes, for one aimed at preventing them – by becoming a mental health nurse.

Justine Burgess from Cheshire has spent 16 years working for the police, but thanks to an innovative scheme organised by the University, was able to use her experiences and show her aptitude to be accepted onto a full-time mental health nursing degree at Salford, starting this month.

Following school Justine joined the police and rose to the rank of detective, working on cases involving murders and serious sexual crimes.  It was during this work that she noticed how many of the perpetrators had serious mental health problems and this made her determined to start a new career in nursing where she could help prevent the spiral of illness and drug addiction that led to many of the crimes she investigated.

However, with no A levels, Justine found that many universities she contacted were unwilling to accept her without completing a full year of foundation study – despite her experience of working in a difficult and demanding job with the public. 

At Salford she was enrolled onto the Alternative Entry Scheme which involved completing a personal statement and attending an interview.  She also took tests for maths and English and within three weeks was granted her place on the three year degree.

Justine said: “With the police I was dealing with a lot of people who had committed terrible offences, but who often had serious mental health issues and tragic pasts that had led to drug abuse and crime.  It made me think about a career that would help people manage their conditions and not get involved in criminal activity in the first place.

“I was very nervous about taking the tests at Salford but thankfully I passed and it’s been a whirlwind few weeks getting ready for becoming a full time student.”