NURSES are in short supply in the UK.

The Government scrapped bursaries for student nurses in 2016.

Until then, students undertaking a first degree in nursing received up to £16,454 per year.

The Royal College of Nursing said axing the bursary had been damaging and remained a key reason behind the rise of unfilled vacancies in nursing within the NHS.

The Government has now changed its stance and reintroduced bursaries, a move welcomed by Donna Booton.

And if anyone knows about nursing, it is Donna.

Donna, 55, has just called time on a 38 year career as a nurse working in the NHS.

She finished her career as Head of Quality Improvement for East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust but still spent weekends working in her matron role.

Donna never lost sight of her nursing background and insists there has has never been a more exciting time to pursue a career in the field.

During her early career, she trained at a number of hospitals which came under the umbrella of the Colchester hospital trust including Essex County, Black Notley, Severalls and St Mary’s hospitals as well as Turner Village.

After qualifying in 1985, she progressed through the ranks to become a sister ten years later.

She has fond memories of her ten years as a matron at the now-closed Essex County Hospital.

She even renewed her vows with her husband, Peter, in the hospital’s chapel to mark their 25th wedding anniversary.

So what has changed in nursing over the years? Donna says the opportunities are now greater than ever.

“When I started nursing was a qualification and you had to do an exam, now nurses can specialise and develop,” she said.

“During my career I had to do my degree and Masters, people now come into nursing with a degree and a Masters.

“The vocation has increased possibilities, there are more opportunities for nurses to specialise and develop professionally.

“When I started I didn’t think I would end my career in the role I did.

“Nurses have far more responsibility, administer complex treatments, identify changes in patients and there are many more career opportunities.

“Now the Government has brought in bursary I am hoping it will turn around a bit.”

While the opportunities on offer for nurses may have grown, the key quality for prospective nurses remains the same. In nursing, empathy is everything.

Spending much of her career working on oncology wards, Donna has helped people through their lowest moments.

“I haven’t and could maybe never experience half of what people are going through. At the time you just have to go through it with them,” she said.

“You must be empathetic rather than sympathetic. It really is just about being there for them.

“That is basic empathy, sitting down with someone and holding their hand for five minutes. You cannot measure that.”

Donna met her husband, Peter, at the Windmill nightclub in Copford in 1983.

He was a corporal in the 1st Battalion, the Staffordshire regiment which was based at Colchester Garrison and they were married in 1985.

Together they have two sons, now aged 31 and 26, and Donna credits her family for being there at every step of her career.

“During my many years as ward sister, not being home for Christmas was always difficult,” she said.

“When I was a student nurse my husband even gave up his career to look after the children so I could pursue it.

“You cannot underestimate enough how much family support you in this.”

Throughout such a lengthy career, Donna has also established a second family made up of hundreds of former patients and members of hospital staff.

She said: “Everyone is a part of the team, everybody matters. Especially with oncology, where the patients have quite life-limiting diseases, you have to support the nurses. You have to know them.

“You end up becoming a bit like a wise, old owl. I can walk from one side of the hospital to the other and it would take me ages. It was even longer as I stopped to see people and give them a hug on my last day. For me, everyone deserves the same treatment.”