My nursing journey, from undergraduate to postgraduate qualifications

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RGU alumna Kathryn shares how she decided to study nursing after losing her dad during her childhood, and her experience obtaining not only an undergraduate but a postgraduate qualification.

What brought you into Nursing?

I’ve always wanted to look after people since a young age. I used to look after other kids in the playground when they’d skint their knees and elbows and as I got older, my dad became unwell and spent a lot of time at medical appointments or as a hospital inpatient.

Initially, I had planned on going into medicine. Unfortunately, my dad passed away when I was 14 from a heart attack and my focus on grades slipped a little. But I am a believer in fate, and that everything happens for a reason.

Knowing that I wouldn’t have the grades to get into medicine but that I was still very much focussed on looking after people, I turned toward nursing. I now know that it was the right path for me to follow. As a student ,I got to spend more 1:1 time with patients and family whilst being educated to a highly skilled level, working as part of an amazing multi-disciplinary team.

Why did you choose to study at RGU?

A team from RGU visited my school as part of a career fair and I liked the open and flexible attitude and the fundamental values that RGU presented to me. When I did further research into university choices and it came to the time to apply for places, RGU stood out as a forerunner, for a variety of reasons.

It was one of the top degree programmes in nursing in Scotland, and it also meant I could stay at home which financially worked out great. I knew that Aberdeen offered a great teaching hospital that it was going to be where I wanted to work when I graduated. This made me decide that RGU was the clear choice for my studies.

Can you tell us more about your undergraduate course experience at RGU?

I was nervous to get started with the course. I’ll never forget those first few weeks, not really knowing anyone and being plunged into depths unknown with classes about things I’ve never heard of. But I settled in pretty quickly and started making friends. Although the classes were still mind-boggling at times, I felt like I was starting to settle in pretty well.

I really enjoyed the opportunities that RGU gave me and the placements I had throughout my studies. I found a few of my placements tougher than other, and came up against some challenges. But each time I came up against these obstacles I knew that I could turn to my Practice Education Facilitator or Practice Education Lecturer to support me and guide me in the right direction.

I found the RGU lecturers really engaging. I still remember sitting in the big lecture theatre in the Business School watching my lecturer teach us about the kidneys by pouring a jug of water filled with alphabet magnets through a funnel and a tube to show us how the bowman’s capsule and the renal tubules worked. That lecture will stick with me for the rest of my career!

We spent endless afternoons in the skills and simulation labs learning the essential clinical skills we needed to provide safe care for our patients. However, nothing fully prepares you better than placements for the real deal and actually learning what makes somebody tick, the answer? No one knows! And that is the beauty of real world learning. Textbooks and lectures can teach you the standard anatomy and functions of a body and mind but only meeting and seeing people from all walks of life help to consolidate you learning and link the theory with the practice.

What did you do after graduating from nursing at RGU?

I’ve have had a few different jobs but my primary role was working in coronary care as a staff nurse for several years. It was there that I gained the experience and knowledge to look after very unwell. I learnt compassion and confidence in equal measure and I would recommend to anyone spending time in a critical care area when they qualify.

My colleagues helped shape me into the nurse I am today. Without them, I wouldn’t have felt brave enough to take the next step into advanced practice.

How was it going back to studying after a long break?

I’ve returned to studying on and off throughout the years for various courses. But around more recently, I got a new job as a trainee nurse practitioner, which meant returning to university to undertake my Master’s Degree in Advanced Clinical Practice.

I completed my PgCert at another university and returned to RGU to complete my prescribing module. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed returning to RGU and re-experiencing being a student here. I enjoy the approach that the module team takes to teaching, with the students taking ownership for their own learning.

It’s a relaxed and productive environment for learning. I felt that there was a shared respect between staff and students for each other’s experiences.

What does you career in nursing look like going forward?

I currently work as part of a highly experienced and skilled unit, the Hospital At Night team. It consists of Advanced Nurse Practitioners, Nurse and Trainee Nurse Practitioners and Senior Healthcare Support Workers. We work alongside medical staff as part of a MDT to keep patients safe, assessing critically unwell and deteriorating patients and supporting the ward staff in delivering safe and effective care.

We cover the whole adult hospital and look after many different specialities of patients and I can see myself doing this well into the future. I have a keen interest in ALS provision, and I am currently training to become an ALS instructor. I love my job and want to continue providing care in this way for a long time to come.

Finally, I hope that anyone reading this considers nursing as a career and finds the clinical specialty that makes them happy and sticks with it!

Kathryn Hunter

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