The first wave of our final-year nurses who’ve been in practice during Covid have now gone through the exam board and are gearing up for life as a qualified nurse. We are enormously proud of our students for rising to the occasion and have no doubt they will be an incredible asset to the healthcare profession.
OneDundee caught up with two of our nurses as they take time to reflect on their university experience, specifically over the last few months, and how they feel about their future in nursing.
Mark Gourlay returned to the University to study MSc Adult Nursing after being inspired by the cancer care he witnessed his dad receive.
Why did you choose to study MSc Adult Nursing? I was looking for a career change and for something that would suit me. My dad had cancer during my previous degree, and the care he received from the nursing staff in hospital was great and they made his final days as comfortable as possible for him. I wanted to return to something science-based (my first degree was Biology) and the opportunity to learn something new and interesting was great. I have always enjoyed helping others and this seemed like a wonderful opportunity to do that while finding something I enjoyed. Plus, having two degrees already allowed me to pursue the Masters programme, which has been very intellectually stimulating and rewarding.
Tell us a bit about your overall University experience. This is my second time studying at the University of Dundee, and it has been another very positive experience. The academic staff are really supportive with all academic and personal issues that may arise during the course. There is always exciting things going on around campus and there are plenty things to get involved with, which is great. I am very proud to be a University of Dundee graduate.
Tell us a bit about your final placement working during the pandemic. My final placement during the COVID-19 pandemic is in Carmichael House Care Home in Dundee. It has been a really rewarding and enjoyable experience, being able to provide physical and psychological care for residents during this difficult time, particularly in the early stages as visiting to care homes was not yet available. I have really liked getting to experience the carer, nursing, and management side of the care home setting, and I feel it has prepared me for my transition to becoming a registered nurse. The staff were excellent in making me feel like a valued team member.
Can you remember how you felt when you first started your last placement? I was apprehensive about starting the sign-off placement anyway, but going into it during a pandemic just made things even more anxiety-inducing! I really had to think for a long time if I wanted to ‘opt in’or not for several reasons, but I decided to push myself and do it and I am so glad I did. I feel it has boosted my confidence massively and I have learned new things from a really difficult situation.
Do you think it has shaped and/or influenced the nurse you will be? If so, how? Most definitely! I am now more aware of the increasing role that nurses have during times of global crises and how nurses have to manage not only the care of the residents or patients, but also their fellow colleagues and staff members. I have increased my ability to remain calm under pressure, improved my infection prevention and control techniques, and my communication skills have improved. Both the people we are caring for and their relatives require reassurance during this time, and I have grown in my confidence to provide this successfully for them.
How does it feel now your studies and final placement have come to an end? I still am unable to believe how quickly the last three years have gone by. I have really enjoyed my time at university (probably clear from the fact I came back for a third time), but I feel ready and excited to be starting my next chapter as a registered nurse. This is still a really scary thought and I knew I would never feel 100% ready, but this placement has given me the confidence boost I really needed to cast aside any self-doubt and believe in my abilities to succeed.
What are your plans now? I have a job lined up but I am also awaiting another interview for another position, so plenty to keep me busy! My goal prior to commencing the nursing programme was to become a General Practice Nurse, and I am hoping to achieve this either as a newly qualified nurse or later in my career path. I am looking forward to seeing what the future holds.
Any words of encouragement or advice you’d give to your past self? Try not to get yourself down so much and be overly self-critical. Mistakes will happen and you will naturally compare yourself to others. Mistakes are there for you to learn from and the only person you should compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday: how can you improve or do something better? You need to realise that you were selected for this course for a reason!
Any words of encouragement or advice you’d give to current or future Nursing students at the University? Plan, plan, and plan! Keep on top of your assignments and start them sooner rather than later. Make plans for your essays and revise as much as possible for exams to give yourself enough time. Keep in contact with placement mentors and colleagues; the right connections can help you land your dream job! Focus on small tasks at a time and try not to feel overwhelmed. Enjoy every minute as before you know it three years will be by in a flash.
In one sentence, what does it mean to be a nurse?
Being the light in the dark for those we care for; ensuring they are healthy, happy, and safe.
Gift Nakabuye said it was her passion for helping others that led her to study MSc Mental Health Nursing.
Why did you choose to study MSc Mental Health Nursing? I am very passionate about helping people and this course was able to place me in exactly that position. Additionally, I knew that taking on this course would offer me endless opportunities on my career development journey.
Tell us a bit about your overall University experience. I came from England to study at the University of Dundee which was a huge transition for myself. I had never lived away from home in Coventry. The people in Dundee and at the University made the settling a bit easier for me. However, I feel that I might have missed out on ‘proper’ university experiences due to time spent away from campus on placements and between keeping a full-time job as well as keeping on top of university assignments.
Tell us a bit about your final placement working during the pandemic. At first, the whole pandemic thing was overwhelming for me with new information coming in about the virus itself on a day to day basis. However, the decision to take up the opportunity was easily made. Honestly, I did not want to stay in lockdown on my own for the unpredictable period. The final placement was just like any other before but with added vigilance and responsibilities. The team was amazing, and this helped a great deal.
Can you remember how you felt when you first started your last placement? On my first day, I was just as glad to get out of the house as being there to help. Seeing my classmates and being able to share our feelings was a stress reliving. Knowing that everyone felt the same as me regarding the matter was comforting. The welcome we got and orientation on the ward was helpful in easing the anxieties that were felt.
Do you think it has shaped and/or influenced the nurse you will be? If so, how? Oh yes most definitely. This was a reflection inducing period and knowing that life was so unpredictable caused a lot of growth and maturity for me. Knowing that I was a comforting factor for the old folk in my ward who were not able to see their families and friends was a factor that helped me feel needed every day.
How does it feel now your studies and final placement have come to an end? I feel ready to start my nursing career and this placement has greatly boasted my confidence to do so.
What are your plans now? I decided to take a break just before starting as a staff nurse to rest up and get refreshed as I wait for my PIN coming through. Once I start working, I plan to just embrace the job, learn more every day and see what comes my way, maybe go back to university at some point after a couple of years…..who knows, we will see!
Any words of encouragement or advice you’d give to your past self?
Try to be the best version of yourself every day even when it seems hard. Be kind.
Any words of encouragement or advice you’d give to current or future Nursing students at the University? Time flies, so keep calm and carry on.
In one sentence, what does it mean to be a nurse?