Former Central Middlesex Hospital coffee shop worker becomes a nurse

Octavia Goncalves was inspired to change careers after observing nurses from the Emergency Departmen

Octavia Goncalves was inspired to change careers after observing nurses from the Emergency Department at work. - Credit: Archant

Octavia Goncalves says she owes her new career to the support of nursing colleagues at the London North West Healthcare NHS Trust.

Originally from Portugal, Octavia began working in the coffee shop at Central Middlesex Hospital, on Acton Lane, in 2006.

Impressed by her positive and friendly attitude, she was encouraged to apply for a housekeeping job in the Emergency Department (ED) by Head of Nursing Julie O’Donoghue.

Ms O’Donoghue said: “You could tell Octavia was a bright, intelligent girl. She was very organised, picked things up quickly, had amazing communication skills and was really good at building relationships.”

Octavia was successful in getting the job and went to work at both Central Middlesex and Northwick Park hospitals. It was while observing the work of ED nurses that she was inspired to join the nursing profession herself, with the full support and encouragement of her colleagues.

“When you think about a housekeeper in a hospital you think about cleaning, but it was much more than that,” said Octavia, who eventually gained an NVQ in health and social care.

“It is a very important job but I was curious and wanted to know more, and used to ask the nurses lots of questions. I had always wanted to work with people and that’s where it started growing – the thought that I could actually be a nurse.

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“People would tell me I had the potential and would be good at it, and said I should go ahead.”

Octavia started studying at Middlesex University in 2012, continuing to work as a housekeeper throughout her studies.

“It was really hard but I had fantastic managers who supported me all the way,” she continued.

“It was very intensive having to study, go on placement and work, and I couldn’t have done it by myself.”

Octavia qualified last year and is now working on the busy admission wards at Northwick Park Hospital.

She said: “It is still early days and I am learning a lot, but it has been very good so far. I love seeing the smile on a patient’s face when I am able to meet their needs.

“I know it is a cliché and what everyone says but the best bit about the job is actually making a difference in someone’s life. When they leave the ward and are discharged feeling much better you feel ‘I’ve done my job’.”

Looking back to her days in the coffee shop, Octavia said she could never have imagined she would end up being a nurse and paid tribute to those who had spurred her on, especially Julie O’Donoghue and ED Matron Nicola Wheatley.

“People that have been with the trust for years saw me in the coffee shop and now they see me as a nurse, and they say ‘we’re so proud, you have done so well’,” said Octavia.

“There are other people out there like me with potential who just need an opportunity.

“It was tough but it was worth it. I want to go further and study more. In nursing you are constantly learning, so I will probably still be learning until the day I retire.”

To find out about nursing careers at London North West Healthcare NHS Trust, visit