After working with the ambulance service in London and the Home Counties for 15 years, Sara Wood-Kwasniewska decided she wanted to understand what happened to her patients once they arrived in A&E.
She opted for a complete change of life, moving from Surrey to the Isle of Harris in 2015 to undertake her Adult Nursing degree at the Western Isles campus.
“I wanted to be able to understand and provide the full circle of care for my patients,” she said. “We would roll up outside various Accident and Emergency departments, having delivered quality care to our patients en-route, but I was always interested in what happened next. Were we right? What more could we have done? What more could I learn?
“Sometimes we would be able to find out, but more often than not, we would have to head off to another call.”
Sara, 47, chose the University of Stirling because of its reputation for great academic support and success.
“It was beneficial being on one of the smaller campuses as you really had one-to-one support,” she said. ”Our academic mentors felt more like extended family during our time there, and they were on hand whenever we needed them. The support and direction was excellent.
“I have always been one to ask questions and have a very inquisitive mind, so I loved the academic side of the nursing degree as much as the patient care.”
As well as studying for her degree and continuing to pursue her career in the ambulance service, Sara qualified as a Marine Mammal Medic during her time at the University.
She is now working towards her advanced qualification and is the Assistant Coordinator for British Divers Marine Life Rescue for the Outer Hebrides Division.
“My medical training in both the nursing and ambulance sectors has helped enormously in helping me care for injured marine life,” she said. “Nursing has many faces, and all my patients are important to me. Whether they are human, dolphin, whale or seal, they all get the best care I can provide.”
After graduating, she will commute between Harlow – where she will combine work as a nurse in Accident and Emergency at the Princess Alexandra Hospital, with her role as an advanced ambulance technician – and Harris, spending quality time with her family and continuing her marine life rescue volunteer work.
“I feel very privileged to be having an amazing work life balance mix ahead,” she said. “The NHS has been extremely supportive of both my careers, providing flexibility in my working patterns so I can maintain both sets of skills.”