Rachael Rowe attended Truro School on a scholarship between 1979-1981 and was among some of the first girls to join. Her brother, Martyn CO82 (who still lives in Cornwall), was in the year below and their younger sister, Fiona CO88, followed later.
It was still very early days in terms of girls at Truro School, at the time there were only 16 in total and Rachael remembers the support and camaraderie among the close-knit group. “Looking back, generally it was a positive experience but as one of the first girls, it wasn’t without its challenges. In those days it was tough being one of the few girls at Truro School. For the masters, having girls in their class was a new and unfamiliar experience and certainly some were more welcoming than others to this new age. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, but I realise now that the experience taught me skills which have been valuable throughout my career.”
Rachael explains that the careers advice in those days was not as comprehensive as it is today, and when she voiced her desire to become a nurse there was not a great deal of advice available. She decided to volunteer once a week in the A&E department at, what was then, the City Hospital and used the opportunity to seek careers advice from medical professionals she met. The experience reaffirmed her desire to become a nurse, and after Sixth Form, aged 18, she began her nursing training at Barts Hospital in London.
“Within eight weeks of finishing school I was in the East End of London working in a very busy deprived area. The ‘banter’ with the boys at Truro School stood me in good stead for working in the emergency department. I qualified in 1985 and have worked in many places since. My jobs have varied from clinical posts, working as a ward Sister, to research, managing services for a health economy, and implementing innovative developments such as new treatments for strokes. French speaking skills learnt at Truro School also came in useful when I went on to work in a trauma unit in Switzerland – I think Monsieur Laupretré would have been proud.”
Early in her nursing career Rachael won the ‘Smith and Nephew Scholarship’, facilitating travel to Ohio, USA, where she spent a month in the emergency department. This led Rachael into her work dealing with heart attack patients, something she is proud of.
“I was one of the first nurses to be involved in changes to emergency care for heart attack patients. Although the treatment has continued to evolve, the work my small team did in Birmingham in the 90’s, was adopted across the country and internationally. It helped save hundreds of lives resulting in reduced mortality rates in heart attack patients.”
Rachael now lives in Dorset whilst working in the adjacent county as Head of Long-Term Conditions at Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group, based in Yeovil. “My work involves treatment programmes and preventative medicine to improve outcomes for people with long-term conditions, such as diabetes and strokes.”
Of course, it has been ‘all hands to the pump’ during the pandemic and Rachael has been part of a team leading the emergency response for long term conditions in Somerset, including implementing initiatives to protect those shielding in their homes.
“Projects that normally take six months to implement were put in place within 3 weeks! The pace has been relentless.” The work continues and like many nurses, Rachael is now deployed to support the vaccination programme.
Any advice for aspiring health professionals?
“There are hundreds of diverse jobs in the NHS today leading to a wide variety of career pathways, opportunities are endless. The job I began aged 18 has changed beyond recognition. There are also new roles that didn’t exist at the start of my career, such as those involving technology. You don’t need to choose a degree immediately – I did both my BSc (Biology) and Masters later in life so don’t be hurried into something you don’t want to do.”
Free time for Rachel has always included exploring the globe. “I’m passionate about travel and have been to some fantastic places such as Everest Base Camp, Iran, Latin America, and on the Trans-Siberian Express but I also enjoy things closer to home like walking, gardening and reading.”
This love of travel led to Rachael’s second career, which at present, runs alongside her amazing NHS career. Having recently qualified as a journalist she now writes for some local and international publications and has written travel and walking guides for Devon and Wiltshire areas. “There’s nothing like seeing your name in print for the first time. I always wanted to write about travel and saw an opportunity to work on books involving the Westcountry. I submitted a proposal and got accepted – and then all the hard work began!”
In the next few years Rachael plans to retire from the NHS but hopes to continue working as a journalist and writer and looks forward to planning another exciting trip as she continues to travel the world.
We would like to thank Rachael and all our OT Healthcare Professionals for their amazing dedication, commitment and hard work endeavouring to keeping us all safe through the pandemic.