Graeme Black

Scotland

Graeme Black

After working for charities for so many years, and unfortunately seeing so many of them lose funding or struggle to stay open, I wanted a change of environment. I wanted to take all the skills I had developed across all my jobs and apply it to something new. My plan was to come into nursing and given the chance, work in sexual health. Something I had done in Youth Work but not quite in the same way. Nursing seemed to give me the best chance to work with people, continue to develop the skills I wanted and provide me with the variation and challenge that I want from a career. In my first year, I completed my COSCA’s, a counselling skills qualification, at West Lothian College; which helped me refine some of my skills and has really encouraged me to deliver more emotional and mental health-focused care in an adult nursing setting. I plan on taking this further, as I like the idea of working in the adult/young peoples fields but with a mental health approach.

Stirling was my first choice. I had offers from other universities, but Stirling offered a more progressive option. Having the chance to study adverse childhood experiences, undertake training like “Being Dementia Smart” (BDS) and have that additional backing of being a graduate from Stirling were all appealing. I wanted to go to a university that was recognised for providing quality training and as such, providing quality nurses.

It really has been a challenge, I won’t lie. That being said, I’ve had the chance to work with some amazing people. If you asked me 10 years ago if I wanted to be a nurse, I’d have told you “no, I don’t want to do personal care for a living”. What I didn’t know then is just how diverse and varied the field is. If you have an interest in something, you’re likely to find a nursing role that will fit it; and you’ll develop interests related to fields of nursing that you never imagined existed, or that you never thought would interest you.
Having the chance to undertake practical experiences has given me the chance to really learn and apply so many new skills. Much like with school and my last degree, I can find the theory side of things a challenge. Getting the opportunity to work in different settings helps though because it means you can take what’s being discussed in class and start to apply it. It also means that you can start to understand what kind of care interests you; trust me, thinking you’ll like or hate a particular area of work doesn’t always mean that you will. The hours can be hard though, you’re still expected to be on placement for 36+ hours a week and when you’re on placement you’re trying to learn as much as you possibly can. Thankfully, we don’t get assessment or exams (usually) during placements.

I’ve always loved the study of health inequalities but for me the lectures on adverse childhood experiences were some of the best. What I particularly enjoy about the course is the input that guest speakers have. It's always interesting to see what other people bring to your field, and some of the lectures that allowed people to talk about their experiences of caring for their families have really been moving.

Peer support really has been beyond valuable. We were told on our first day that studying this degree would allow us to make friendships that would last a lifetime; they were not wrong. We spend so much of our time away from the university studying or on placement, so your friends on the course are sometimes your driving force. They are experiencing the same struggles as you and because of that, know exactly what you’re going through. If it weren’t for my friends (Jodie, Emily and Gillian) this course would have been much harder. What’s important to point out here though is that lecturers and personal tutors are more than not doing everything they can to help. I’ve had replies to emails late at night and over the weekend, and so many of the staff go the extra mile whenever they can. Some of my mentors while on placement have really been amazing too. One placement, in particular, I was supported to visit and experience as much as I possibly could. That mentor actually keeps in touch with me now, and when I’ve been needing that shake to get back on track; I know she’s just a call away.