University of Stirling graduate Verena MacLeod moved to the Highlands because of a homesick husband and is now settled in Scotland with her trilingual family.
In 2006, the mother-of-three made the switch to Ullapool from their family home in Würzburg, Germany, as her husband Eamon missed the Scottish weather.
Verena has just completed a BSc Nursing from the University’s Highland Campus in the grounds of Raigmore Hospital and is learning Gaelic as she immerses herself in her adopted home.
“My husband missed the wind and the rain,” joked Verena. “At the start, there were some language difficulties and on my first placement I was asked to get a bed pan and I had to say ‘what’s a bed pan?’ My mentor must have thought he had the student from hell!
“Before I met my husband I didn’t even know the Gaelic language existed. I’m using my experience of learning Latin at school to help me and I think it’s so important to learn the language as it is part of my husband’s heritage. My children speak all three languages and now they feel more Scottish than German.”
The 43-year-old originally studied Law, but then opted to follow in the family footsteps and has excelled in her Stirling studies, selected from amongst nursing graduates across three campuses for the University’s annual RG Bomont Award for Excellence in Clinical Practice.
She said: “I still find Law fascinating, but the practice doesn’t suit my character. My great-granny was a midwife and my mum was a nurse so once my youngest son started school, I decided to study nursing.
“Whenever I see little children I think I could maybe just have one more. I love being a mother and I think it helps me with my nursing. I am well used to dealing with all sorts of bodily fluids and you also learn patience. I treat my patients like my babies and I want the best for them.”
Verena’s achievements are all the more impressive as she suffered the tragic loss of her grandmother in a house fire in late 2014, having previously taken a leave of absence to nurse her back to health from a serious illness.
She said: “The last few months of my training were really hard for me, but thankfully I had incredible support from all my mentors, colleagues and my loving husband. They all helped me to pull through and concentrate on my studies and my family.
“The support I’ve had during my studies here has been so amazing, every student has their own tutor and everyone is so helpful, the lecturers look out for you and care about you. At the moment I am digesting the events of the last year to be able to concentrate on the responsibility of a good nurse.
“I am not quite sure yet which direction to pursue as there are so many interesting fields. I would love to work with mothers and children, but I also enjoyed the orthopaedic ward and working on the nurse bank, where you get to go to lots of different places and gain a more rounded knowledge.”
Verena’s tutor, Nursing Lecturer Irene Murray, said: “Verena has strived for perfection, demonstrating commitment and professionalism coupled with compassion and integrity. She is naturally inquisitive and has a thirst for knowledge. While on placement, she demonstrated such a high level of empathy that her patients were disappointed when she was not on duty.”