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Pupils get taste of nursing career thanks to unique work experience scholarship

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Senior secondary pupils in remote and rural areas of the Highlands and Western Isles are being given the chance to experience a career in nursing as part of a new initiative designed by the University of Stirling, developed in partnership with NHS Boards and Local Authorities, funded by the Scottish Government and NHS Education for Scotland (NES).

The Pre Nursing Scholarship Programme launched in September with 12 pupils starting at the University’s Highland Campus in Inverness and 10 in the Western Isles Campus in Stornoway. 

The programme has been created and developed by the University’s School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health, in partnershipwith NHS Boards and Local Education Authorities, as a work experience project for young people in S5 and S6.

The two-year project, funded under the Scottish Government/NHS Education for Scotland national Recruitment, Selection and Retention initiative, provides a unique opportunity for inspiring future nurses, whilst developing employability and core skills through the achievement of the SQA Skills for Work Health Sector Intermediate 2 Course.  

The project aims to promote nursing as a first choice career; increase pupils’ understanding of health careers; enhance their employability, communication and networking skills; whilst addressing issues of isolation within remote and rural areas.  These experiences will allow pupils to incorporate the experiences within a personal statement for a UCAS application or when applying for a health care position.

As part of the programme, pupils take part in a one week residential course and a week of practice learning within their own area. The residential week comprises aspects of theory, with each pupil being allocated a senior nursing student to act as a ‘buddy’ and academic mentor to offer support and guidance throughout the programme. 

The successful pupils will graduate in June 2013 with the opportunity to become Health Ambassadors. This will involve the pupils promoting and advocating the Pre Nursing Scholarship programme and supporting fellow young people who may be interested in undertaking the programme in future.

University of Stirling Teaching Fellow Isobel Chisholm, who leads the programme said: “This exciting initiative is the first of its kind offering work experience in a nursing environment with a programme of study. This project will enable school pupils to make informed career choices whilst providing them with necessary employability skills.”

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “Scotland’s nurses do exemplary and extraordinary work day after day. I am pleased to support this innovative scholarship which I hope will inspire a new generation of nurses and help them take the first step towards a career in nursing.”

Associate Director of Nursing & Midwifery at NES, Mike Sabin added: ‘We were keen to support this initiative as we believe such experiences support better understanding of the challenges and opportunities which modern nursing careers can bring and that this, in turn,  supports enhanced recruitment, selection and retention.”

Many students have already expressed a wish to go on to further health care studies with the University of Stirling at the Highland Campus. Maxine Garson, Highland Council School Liaison Officer, described the experience as “invaluable” for the students involved.

She added: “The selection process ensured that all the students had a genuine interest in the subject and the attention to detail and care shown by the University staff throughout the experience has confirmed that nursing is the correct choice for those students.

“This experience will put these young people ahead of the game both in terms of a university application and in readiness for university life, as well as providing a good understanding of the course and profession they wish to enter.”

Iain Stewart from Western Isles Education Development Centre commented that “pupils have spoken highly of their experience in all aspects”. He added: “The opportunity to gain a related national qualification is being greatly valued.  Pupils particularly praised the teaching and buddy system.”

Pupils involved in the project come from Skye, Invergordon, Mallaig, Gairloch, Grantown on Spey and North and South Uist.

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