Jo Barton described herself as a “nightmare teen.” At 13 years old, the Essex, England, adolescent had little supervision as her mother had been admitted to the hospital due to her mental health.
Barton experimented with alcohol, and by the time she was 14, she’d dropped out of school. With no degree and nowhere to go, her life had gone off the tracks before it had even begun.
With her mother hospitalized and her father out of the picture, Barton was left to fend for herself.
“My teenage years are where it all went wrong really. I left school at 14, halfway through year 10, and I ended up skipping a lot and I wasn’t living at home,” Barton, 32, said to Essex Live.
“I think I was probably depressed but I didn’t know it at the time.”
Barton said she and her sister had to look out for themselves. With nobody caring for their well-being, Barton quickly developed a reputation in her neighborhood.
Years of partying and depression left Barton looking for the reset button on her life. She was searching for a clean break, and took any job that would have her.
“I got my first job at 17 at a restaurant in Great Dunmow. It only lasted four weeks because I was a really bad waitress,” Barton said. “It was my first job, it was long hours, and they fired me after four weeks.”
Seeking ways to get her life back on track, she landed a job as a health care assistant.
Despite being fired from her first job quickly, it left a lasting impression on her. She and her partner met while working there, and remain together 15 years later.
With no education and a bare resume, Barton was fortunate to land a job at the St Catherine’s Care Home. She worked there for two years, while completing English and math coursework, and taking certification classes in the healthcare field.
Working as a health care assistant opened her eyes to the field, and Barton was convinced it was what she wanted to spend her life doing. She landed a part-time job at Princess Alexandra Hospital, and began taking nursing classes.
“You don’t really get support in college and I just got on with it,” she said. “I had about one meal a day and that’s effectively how I survived. “There were lots of times I wanted to quit but if I did that then I would have got nothing.”
Barton proudly graduated after struggling to survive 60-hour work weeks and a full course load. But her education wasn’t finished quite yet.
After witnessing several surgeries, Barton’s next goal was to become a doctor.
Getting into medical school proved to be a struggle, but eventually, Barton was accepted to a 6-year program at St. George’s Hospital in London. Upon graduating, she returned to Princess Alexandria Hospital and was employed in the emergency room.
Never satisfied, she has now set her sights on becoming a General Practitioner.
“I am quite good with depressed patients and that’s because of my past. I am not your average doctor, as I’m quite common, and I think that helps,” she said.
Though her road was a winding one, filled with obstacles, Barton wouldn’t have it any other way. Had she been raised in a more traditional way, she may not have found her calling in life.
“I just want people to know that if you come from nothing there are options if you are willing to put the effort in,” she said. “It’s just staying focused and staying in education.”