How I graduated with a master’s in nursing on my 60th birthday


Recent RGU graduate Anne developed a long and successful career in nursing before deciding to study for a master’s in Advancing Nursing Practice and obtained her qualification just as she turned 60!

She shares more about her academic and professional background as well as her experience studying at RGU to further her career.

Can you tell us about your background in nursing before coming to study at RGU?

I always wanted to be a nurse, to help others. I qualified as a Registered General Nurse from Edinburgh Royal Infirmary in 1984, after which I nursed in Cardiac ICU in Glasgow. This role wasn’t the best fit as I was working with lots of complicated machines.

I moved to Gynaecology where I had more face-to-face interactions with patients. The desire to advance my career led me to Oxford to complete the Orthopaedic Nursing Certificate course, gaining new knowledge and expertise in a specialist post-registered field.

An unexpected opportunity arose which then led me to work in the private sector, a very challenging yet fulfilling period in which I helped launch “primary nursing”, a patient-centred care delivery approach which moved away from task-allocated nursing.

This initiative motivated me to do a Research Diploma at Bournemouth Polytechnic in 1990. I returned to the NHS in 1996 to gain managerial experience. I later gained a Diploma in Professional Nursing Studies in Exeter.

After having my son in 2000, I returned to the private sector again where I worked at a staff nurse grade to focus on being a mother. In 2007, my family returned to Scotland and I first worked as a local surgical nurse bank and then as a part-time Practice Nurse, which suited my family life.

What led you to go back to studying?

I accessed a short Sexual Health course in Dundee, to evidence further professional development for my career. I later completed my Sexual & Reproductive Health and Family Planning training in Edinburgh, a requirement for the post I held as Young People’s Health Worker for NHS Tayside. This role later merged with the School Nurse Service and again, further academic challenges presented themselves.

My confidence was limited so I tackled a distance learning module with Stirling University in 2017 named the Gateway to Further Study. This prepared me for the course I enrolled in at RGU in 2018: Advanced Nursing Practice.

Over two years, I gained my Specialist Community Public Health qualification, part of the Advanced Nursing course. The Covid 19 pandemic hit the world just prior to my placement completion in June 2020, but with immense support from my employer and academic tutors, I completed the course later that year.

It wasn’t until my postponed live graduation ceremony held in April 2022 that I considered the idea of undertaking my master’s module. I started in 2022 after a two-year break from studying and qualified in June 2023 and graduated on my 60th Birthday which was surreal! I now felt I had accomplished my goal, a Nursing Degree.

How was your experience of the Advanced Nursing Practice course at RGU?

RGU provided me with many highlights while I studied as a postgraduate student between 2018 and 2020, and then again in 2022/2023. It boosted my self-belief as I never thought studying at master’s level was possible. I was driven by my passion to remain at the School of Nursing, to be a role model to others , encouraging them to practice at an advanced nursing level in pursuit of enhanced and evidence-based care for children and young people.

During my time at RGU I learned many things, including concepts associated with the four pillars of Advanced Nursing Practice. I specifically learned more about nursing research, encouraged my professional curiosity, and gained additional skills in how to undertake a service evaluation relevant to my post in School Nursing.

This was supported by my employer, NHS Tayside, as a service evaluation to reveal feedback from service users, namely school teachers. Throughout my career, I have always questioned practice, searching for ways to ensure a positive experience for patient, client or service user by asking “are we getting it right” ? By undertaking the master’s module over the past year, I now feel better equipped to carry forward future service evaluations aimed at enhancing practice and improving the experience of service users.

My award has given me confidence to assist children, young people and their families in being heard in order to meet their individual needs.

Do you have any advice for future or current students?

My advice to nursing students is to never doubt your ability. Be open and honest when in need of expert advice from academic staff, reflect on all your learning experiences, both positive and negative and never give up on that dream. With my RGU experience behind me and the opportunity to reflect and recover, I feel grateful that RGU supported me in achieving my academic goals and I recognise that it is never too late to question practice and learn new skills.

Anne McLachlan

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