Bethany Watson, 21, has had a stammer since the age of six, and thought nursing would be an unsuitable profession due to the need to communicate quickly and clearly.
But she is now fully qualified and working on the wards at Airedale Hospital in Keighley thanks to help from her own employer’s speech and language therapy team.
Bethany, from Sutton in Craven, did not struggle with her speech at home or while studying at South Craven School, but had to seek professional help when applying for her degree course at the University of Central Lancashire and for nursing jobs.
“I used to think about my stammer every day. I was worried that my speech impediment would hold me back at university and unsure whether I could still do the job I’d always wanted – to be a nurse – as you have to talk clearly in an emergency.
“I used to find it a bit of a challenge using the phone – but I do it all the time now at work without even thinking about it. The staff are all very nice and that makes a difference. It’s all about how you feel about stammering, lots of people just stop talking. My stammer will always be there but the difference is I have people I can talk to about it. I never see it in a negative way and I won’t let it stop me succeeding in whatever I want to do.”
The hospital’s speech therapist Stephanie Burgess talked through situations Bethany might encounter and came up with strategies to cope with them.
“There are some useful techniques such as slowing down your speech but it’s more about changing your mindset and believing it’s okay to stammer. The problem is often with other people making it an issue. They can get impatient and finish off your sentences rather than letting you have time to continue what you are trying to say,” said Stephanie.
“I believe if you have a stammer you can still do anything you want to do – you just need the confidence to get out there and do it.”
Bethany is also a member of an Ilkley-based group for women with a stammer, as the condition is four times rarer in females than in men.
Around one in 100 adults has a stammer and anyone worried about the condition should ask their GP to refer them to a therapist.