A group of senior secondary pupils based in the remote and rural areas of the Highlands became the first to graduate from a unique pre-nursing scholarship programme on Thursday 21 March.
A total of 21 S5 and S6 pupils embarked on the pilot project at the University of Stirling’s Highland and Western Isles campuses.
The 12 young people who were based at the Highland campus in Inverness celebrated their graduation at the Centre for Health Sciences at Raigmore Hospital.
Graduation certificates were presented by Helen Morrison, Associate Director of Nursing, and Pam Cremin, NHS Highland Allied health professionals Workforce Planning and Development manager.
Pam Cremin said: “The recruitment and sustainability of workforce in remote and rural areas is a key workforce challenge for NHS Highland.
“The Pre Nursing Scholarship Programme promotes the nursing profession to prospective students with the aim that they will enter nurse training locally”.
The programme was designed and led by the University of Stirling’s School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health, in partnership with NHS Highland and Western Isles, the Highland Council and Comhairlenan Eilean Siar Education centre.
The two year pilot project is funded by the Scottish Government and NHS Education for Scotland. It was established to promote nursing as a first career choice and provide an inspiring experience for aspiring nurses.
Aimed at allowing participants to develop core skills, the scheme also incorporates the SQA Skills for the Work Health Sector Intermediate 2 course.
This will enhance their employability, communication and networking skills, while addressing issues of isolation within remote and rural areas.
One of the pupils to graduate from the programme is Alana Lawson from Invergordon Academy who has a whole new appreciation for the industry. She said: “The programme has changed my view of nursing; I didn’t realise how important the role of a nurse is for patients and their families.”
This innovative programme has been short listed for the Partnership of the Year award in the 2013 Student Nursing Times Awards.
University of Stirling Teaching Fellow/ Lead for Recruitment, Isobel Chisholm, who leads the programme, said: “The completion of this first cohort of pre-nursing students has seen a number of applications received through UCAS for a place on the BSc in Nursing Programme at Highland Campus.”
Maxine Garson, development officer for Skills for Work with the Highland Council, said: “The opportunity for the young people to experience a working environment and gain a qualification has been invaluable.
“This will aid them in making an informed decision about their future careers, which is reflected in all 12 of the Highland candidates actively pursuing nursing as a career now.”
The pupils involved in the project come from Gairloch, Grantown, Invergordon, Mallaig and Skye.