A Stirling graduate is celebrating after a major career change saw her swapping the stage for ward rounds.
Having spent the last two decades as a composer, Suzie John graduated as a nurse from the University of Stirling.
The achievement represents a major milestone for the mother-of-two, who balanced the final year of her studies with writing, recording and touring a new album.
Suzie celebrated her graduation alongside her children Verity, 9, Dylan, 11, and husband Ewan.
She said: “I’d never been anything else other than a musician my whole life before I applied to study nursing, and there’s been a lot of hard work and sacrifices between that point and now.
“At 40-years-old I learned a brand-new profession and have been on an incredible journey – I’m very proud of myself.”
As a celebrated composer, Suzie, who worked under the name Suzanne Parry, has produced music for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, the Borders Heritage Festival and former BBC Scotland Young Traditional Musician of the Year, Hannah Rarity. She recently released a new album funded by Creative Scotland and completed a three-date Scottish tour – likely to be her last as a professional musician, having now embarked on a new career as a mental health nurse.
Suzie, who lives in Torphichen, West Lothian, said: “COVID was a particularly horrific time for the arts and on day one of the first lockdown, I saw every event, teaching project and workshop I had planned for the foreseeable future cancelled.
“My initial response was I needed to work – so I applied to work for the NHS during their COVID recruitment campaign and got a role as a porter in St John’s Hospital.
“I found a whole new side to myself. Not many people were running into an acute hospital at the height of COVID! I felt useful and people appreciated me. I felt like it was the start of a re-writing of my identity.
“The experience spurred me on to apply to study mental health nursing. I didn’t know at the time whether I would see it through – but I became a very strong student. I am appreciative to Stirling for taking a chance on me – an unusual applicant and they made a really confident nurse out of me!”
Now working in inpatient older adult mental health services in NHS Lothian, Suzie is enjoying her new role.
“Being a musician, especially a composer, is very introspective,” Suzie said. “You’re thinking about yourself completely, you’re at the centre of your world. Being a nurse is the complete opposite, it’s about other people and using your strengths to help others.”
"I'd love to write the first nursing home opera!"
Although leaving her musical career behind for now, it’s something she is hopeful may come in useful in her new career.
She said: “I think I have a unique skill set and would like to be involved in research to do with using music to improve the lives of those living with dementia.
“As a creative person, there’s something I find fascinating about memory and the fragments of who we are that get left behind and mixed up, I find that very poignant.
“In the future, I would love to write the first ever nursing home opera, it’s such an interesting area and older people just do not get stage time. It would be unique and groundbreaking!”
Suzie was joined at her graduation on Friday 24 November by her two children Verity, 9, Dylan, 11, and her husband Ewan.
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