Roofer Paul Byrne made a dramatic career change when an accident left him hospitalised for several months.
The 50 year-old fell off a roof breaking eleven bones and during his recuperation decided to retrain … as a midwife.
“I knew my days as a roofer were over and the dedication of the nurses really made an impression on me. It got me thinking about nursing as a career and midwifery seemed the most life affirming of the 25 or so specialisms.
“The majority of us go through our working lives without feeling we are making much of a difference and I grabbed the opportunity. It sounds odd but falling off that roof gave me another shot at life.”
The education system had other ideas when faced with a middle aged builder who had left school at 15 with no qualifications and wanted to enter an almost exclusively female profession.
Paul, who works at Northwick Park Hospital, was refused a grant to do a one year access course and paid his way by returning part-time to roofing, despite doctors saying another fall could kill him.
He passed with distinction winning a place at the University of West London. Paul added: “I had to move from Ireland and start from scratch in student digs. It wasn’t easy but where there is a way there is a will.
It is 40 years since men were first allowed to train as midwives in the UK, and they still make up a tiny proportion of the profession
Paul is one of less than 200 males working in the 40,000 strong profession and has learnt not to take thing personally.
“I’ve had 118 refusals and counting and that has largely been male partners uncomfortable with me being present. I love midwifery but it demanding job.”
Paul describes his role as a cheer leader saying mother delivers babies, not midwives, although a safe pair of hands is always available if complications arise.
So what do people think about his midlife career change?
“My family and friends are very supportive and when I tell strangers what I do they usually say just say wow!
“I’m proud to be a midwife but don’t see myself as anything out of the ordinary. What I have learnt is that it’s never too late to be the person you could have been.”