Former forensic nurse breaks down culture barriers through teaching swimming

Vicki, 53, retrained as a swimming teacher in 2020 after deciding to leave her long-term career as a Forensic Mental Health Nurse for the NHS.


The Institute of Swimming has caught up with Vicki to see how she is finding being a swimming teacher after training through the Institute of Swimming Recruitment Academy.


Vicki says:

“Swimming is my happy place. When I need to escape I always head to the water.  I was already an enthusiastic open water swimmer and an open water swimming coach when I decided to take the plunge and get my Institute of Swimming Level 1 and Level 2 Swimming Teacher Qualifications.  I had become dissatisfied with nursing.  I wasn’t finding the job rewarding any longer; I was stressed and over stretched, and felt I needed to put myself first again.”


On qualifying, Vicki started working for a council as a swimming teacher and has gone on to work at Quackers Swim School in Nottingham.Vicki swimming image

She says:

“I’m so pleased I had the courage to make the career change when I did.  On qualifying, I worked as a full time swimming teacher for a council with set hours, holiday and sickness pay etc. Being used to secure working conditions with the NHS, I felt I needed that security after such a dramatic career change. However, with time, and as my confidence grew, I started working part time for a private swim school.


“Teaching swimming gives me the same satisfaction as being a nurse did when I first started with the NHS. I feel satisfied in my work and can see the real-life impact it has on children and their families. It’s so powerful to watch a child grow in confidence and to see the smile on their face when they achieve.”


Vicki also teaches the National Curriculum school swimming, and she finds these lessons especially rewarding.

She says:

“Children that come to the pool for school swimming, especially in the area that I work, have sometimes had no experience of being close to water.  These children, either due to financial reasons or sometimes cultural reasons, don’t get the opportunity to learn to swim. Parents might question what is the benefit or the value of swimming? These lessons are critical and it’s important they are delivered safely and effectively to give these children not only the opportunity to experience the joy of swimming, but to also learn the core life saving skills. For some of these children, just getting into the pool and putting their face in the water is a big step. I always say that it’s not important how pretty their swimming stroke is, it’s more important that children who haven’t learnt to swim before understand how to float and how to stay above the water in an emergency.


“I also hope that, as a black female swimming teacher, simply by being poolside and in the water with children is breaking down cultural barriers. Lots of children from black and Asian backgrounds have learnt lots of myths surrounding swimming. I always get in the water and always get my hair wet, splashing water in my face.  This simple imagery is a positive thing. Children will learn that if I can do it, they can too, and that these old stereotypes and myths are untruths.”


Since qualifying, Vicki has completed a number of Institute of Swimming CPDs, including Faults and Corrections and Swim England Aquatic skills framework Stages 8 to 10, and plans to go on to do more.

Vicki says:

“I see swimming teaching as my future, as I can see the value I am bringing to people’s lives.  I plan to do more CPDs. I’m especially keen to do the diving course.  I’m going to take on more hours going forward, especially school swimming during the day, so that I can help with the childcare of my grandchild.  I also plan to keep on swimming, and have lots of channel swimming challenges coming up in the next 18 months.”

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