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‘Wish I’d done it years ago’

‘Wish I’d done it years ago’


16 Feb, 2020

University of Cumbria nursing graduate Derrick Tyson says he has no regrets about leaving the Forces to take a new direction – indeed he wishes he’d changed career years ago!

Derrick Tyson, 36, recently graduated as a mental health nurse at a ceremony held in the opulent surroundings of Carlisle Cathedral. It turned out to be a double celebration for Derrick, who was awarded the Gordon Neil Prize for nursing, for being the highest-scoring student across all nursing programmes.

Before swapping to mental health nursing, Derrick was a serving solider in Grantham, Lincolnshire, and it was during his preparation for deployment that his interest in mental health was piqued.

‘I was in the Army for several years, deployed on operations across the world. As part of those deployments we were trained as trim practitioners – someone able to assess colleagues’ and peers’ mental health if they had experienced an incident overseas on deployment. That sparked my interest in mental health and, as I was coming towards the end of my time as a soldier, I was looking for other options, came across mental health nursing and was fortunate enough to get a place at the University of Cumbria. They took a chance on me and the rest is history.’

If changing career wasn’t pressure enough, Derrick had to balance his studies alongside a busy family life with three children aged 16, 14 and 10. ‘It was incredibly hard work,’ he says, ‘having three children, either in or rapidly approaching their teenage years. There was a lot going on at home. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without their support and that of my wife Lindsay. She was absolutely amazing taking care of the children, which allowed me to focus on my studies and achieve as well as I did. I was incredibly lucky to have them around and the university was flexible enough to accommodate me too.’

Asked if he has any regrets about changing career, he says: ‘I wish I’d done it years ago. Now I can’t picture myself doing anything else.’ That means working in his dream job at Furness General Hospital, on the Dova Unit, an acute inpatient mental health unit.

Louise Corless, senior lecturer, Mental Health Nursing at the University of Cumbria, says of Derrick’s award: ‘The mental health team are absolutely delighted that Derrick has been awarded the Gordon Neill prize. Derrick decided on a career change after spending a number of years in the military and we are very glad he chose to study with us. He has shown consistency across the whole three years in terms of his academic work, which has been a great pleasure to read. Not only that, but his knowledge and understanding is also evident in his professional practice. We are extremely proud of his achievements.’


Gordon Neill was a surgeon at the Cumberland Infirmary and, on his death in 1952, his father set up a trust fund in his memory from which the prize originates. This is the second year in a row that a mental health nursing student has been awarded the prize, demonstrating the high calibre of students on the University of Cumbria programme. The prize is awarded to the BSc student nurse with the highest average percentage mark in part II of their study across the entire cohort. The award was originally given to the best nurse of the year who trained at Cumberland Infirmary and has since transferred to the University of Cumbria.

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Main photo: Derrick with lecturer, Michelle Garner