That's the message from a Shropshire-based prison nurse as she takes on her new role as head of healthcare at HMP Stafford.
Tracie Ellis, from Lilleshall, had 20 years experience working in corporate HR for large companies, mainly in the electronic and automotive sectors throughout the West Midlands.
But seeking a change of profession, she retrained as a nurse aged 44 and is now taking a senior healthcare role.
Tracie, 55, said: "When I left school, I wanted to be a nurse, but family circumstances took me in another direction.
"At the age of 40 I knew I needed something more engaging and fulfilling to see me through my working life. I attended a nursing open day in Shropshire and that was it – I was hooked.”
Tracie qualified as a registered nurse at the age of 44, with a first class honours degree in adult nursing from Staffordshire University. Her first post was as a staff nurse at HMPYOI Brinsford in Featherstone, Wolverhampton.
“During my training I had a three-month work placement at HMP Shrewsbury, so I knew Brinsford would offer me variety and a challenge post-registration,” Tracie said.
She threw herself into the training programmes on offer with Practice Plus Group Health in Justice, the body that runs healthcare in 47 English prisons.
In 2018, she found her early career helpful in her roles at HMP Oakwood, first as deputy head of healthcare and later as head of healthcare, responsible for managing 80 staff providing healthcare to more than 2,100 prisoners at the large category C prison in Wolverhampton.
Keen to use her experience from the community to support her patients in custody, she has been involved in a piloted pain management programme that looks set to be rolled out nationwide across Health in Justice services.
At the age of 55 she is now about to take over the healthcare service at HMP Stafford, a category C prison with around 740 prisoners, many in the older age group and in need of support for long-term conditions.
She will be involved in the implementation of a specialist care unit providing care for patients with complex conditions and those who require specialist care or rehabilitation whilst in prison. This unit is the first of its kind nationally and will offer support for 12 prisons in the region.
Tracie said: “I am looking forward to the challenge. It is as if all the skills I acquired in my working life have come together. I hope, with the ongoing support of my managers, to take on a regional role in the future, developing services and spreading best practice across our prison services.
“I would encourage anyone to look at their career and ask themselves if it is what makes them happy and fulfilled – and can they see themselves doing it every day until they retire?
“I would also encourage people to consider a career in Health in Justice. There are many opportunities for development and you know you are making a real difference to people’s lives.”