Two nurses who boosted their qualifications by returning to study after many years in the profession graduated in Paisley recently.
Mary Smith and Hazel Smith, aged 50 and 49 respectively, took the opportunity to further their training by studying a distance learning course locally in conjunction with the University of the West of Scotland, based in Paisley.
They were previously enrolled nurses, a rank that no longer exists within the profession, but now they are staff nurses, with added responsibilities and skills and the proud possessors of diplomas of higher education in nursing.
The women, who are not related in spite of sharing the same surname, and who coincidentally both live in Cunningsburgh and both have four children, started their programme in May 2007. The flexible nature of the course enabled them to stay in their nursing jobs while studying and to undertake placements within Shetland in different parts of the NHS, supervised by individual mentors. The theoretical side of the course was taught by tutor Helen Wisdom.
Mary, who is currently employed as part of the community nursing team at Lerwick Health Centre, said: “It was a marvellous opportunity to progress and to develop professionally. The bairns were older so it was possible.”
Brushing up her study skills was quite a challenge, however. “It was tough at times having to set by time to do it. But I was determined – I wasn’t going to no finish it.”
During the programme Mary had to produce evidence of in-depth study that would improve patient care – she devised an advice leaflet for oral care for ill (mainly elderly) patients. “I’d never done anything like it – I presented the work to a number of committees and received feedback.”
She also had the experience of working on the Gilbert Bain Hospital wards, including A & E. The change from community to acute setting brought her up to date, she said.
Mary’s mentor Liz Gifford, who supervised her at the health centre, said: “The course has increased [Mary’s] clinical skills and confidence. It has been great to see her developing and now she will be able to increase her role within the team.”
Hazel, who works at the hospital’s A & E department, did her original training in 1980 and 1981 and worked in nursing before and after having her family. She welcomed the chance to study in Shetland as it would have been impossible for her to leave for training. Her placements were in the Lerwick Health Centre and wards 1 and 3 at the Gilbert Bain Hospital: “It was a brilliant opportunity to brush up on skills I wasn’t using much and to get an overall view of patient care.”
Both women paid tribute to their mentors and tutor for their support and encouragement. Hazel said: “Helen has been an amazing tutor and helped us get back on our feet and realise we could achieve as mature people … you doubted your ability getting back into studying, even though the basics were always there.” The added bonus, she said, was studying with Mary. “We kept each other going.” The nurses in her workplaces were “so supportive, good role models”, and her mentor Thelma Irvine was “always there and willing to help me achieve my goals”. These included producing a leaflet on asthma care for patients to take home.
Mary described the support she had received throughout the course as “brilliant”.
Tutor Helen Wisdom praised the women’s “great achievement”, and said: “We always encourage people to learn. A well-educated work force will have an impact on patient care and it’s good we’re able to offer a variety of programmes.”
Chairman of NHS Shetland Ian Kinniburgh said: “On behalf of the board I am delighted to offer my congratulations to Hazel and Mary on their success and for taking this opportunity to engage in a programme that promotes personal growth and professional development. This two-year programme demands a high level of commitment and they are both to be commended for their efforts. The board would also like to thank the mentors and all staff who have provided support to the students while on clinical placement.”
The graduation ceremony was held in November in the ornate setting of the Thomas Coats Memorial Baptist Church. The church was built as a tribute to the family of threadmakers J & P Coats, one of the main benefactors of Paisley Technical College from which the university developed.