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Healthcare sector workers to nurses via the OU

Photo of Elvira Viray

There are many reasons why our students choose to study nursing, from a desire to help people to wanting a secure career path.

To study nursing with The Open University in Scotland, students must already be employed in a healthcare environment, whether that’s as a kitchen porter in a care home, or as a healthcare support worker. The Open University (OU) then works with employers to develop their teams using open-access programmes. This enables students to earn whilst they learn, as well as keeping skills local.

To celebrate International Nurses Day (12 May), we’re shining a spotlight on some of our OU in Scotland nursing alumni. 

Nursing Lead at the OU in Scotland, Liz Sturley, commented:

“The Open University Nursing Programme in Scotland attracts highly motivated healthcare sector employees. They recognise the opportunity the OU programme offers in supporting their career development, plus enabling them to add value to their organisation by developing their knowledge base and professionalism, enhancing the quality of the healthcare they can provide.” 

Here some of our recent graduates explain in their own words what influenced them to study.

Julie Plenderleith 

From an early age, Julie was already fascinated with health: “As a child I would read over and over my parents’ home doctor books, intrigued with all the medical conditions,” she says. 

Julie Plenderleith

Julie worked as a health care assistant. She decide to finally fulfil her childhood ambition of becoming a nurse when she saw first-hand the care her father received when he unfortunately became critically ill in hospital.

Through watching my dad in this condition in ICU and the nurses caring for him was where I decided I wanted to be a nurse.”

“My dad became unwell with bowel cancer, and while recovering post-operation in hospital he suffered six cardiac arrests over a space of a few hours. My dad was transferred to the intensive care unit where he was put into a coma and a hypothermic state,” she explains. "Through watching my dad in this condition in ICU and the nurses caring for him was where I decided I wanted to be a nurse.”

Over the next three years, Julie gained “valuable skills which would help for the day I became a registered nurse”. She recommends studying with the OU to other health care assistants who want to become a nurse, whatever their age.

Elvira Viray

From a very young age Elvira Viray (pictured top right) was interested in becoming a nurse, but with “little resources, financial difficulties, and lots of responsibilities, which included providing for my family” she had to put her ambition on hold.

It was when Elvira moved from the Philippines to start a new life with her family in Scotland that she began to look for bigger opportunities and to be able to use her passion for caring for others.

The care home she was working in as a kitchen porter saw her potential. They offered her a job as a carer, which gave Elvira the opportunity to achieve her Scottish Vocational Qualification, and later on she was promoted to a role as a senior carer.

With the support of her employer, Elvira went on to complete a part-time OU access course to nursing. She studied hard to achieve the maths qualification she needed to successfully apply for the Scottish Government funded nursing degree programme to begin her journey to becoming a nurse.

Throughout her studies, Elvira was based in the rural Highland area of Ballachulish. Even though she studied remotely, Elvira felt supported by the OU, particularly as someone who hadn’t studied for over 30 years and whose second language is English.

“I have never felt so proud of myself”, she says. “And now, life has become more satisfying knowing that my dream has come true. I can set an example and become a role model to everyone who wants to achieve more in their life.”

Kombe Mwarandu

Before he was an award-winning nurse, Kombe was working as a receptionist at his local GP surgery. His nursing degree from the OU in Scotland enabled him to achieve his career dreams and give back to his community. 

Kombe Mwarandu

Kombe was inspired to get into nursing for many reasons, but it was his own family’s experience of healthcare that motivates him:

“Before I started nursing my daughter was diagnosed with a brain tumour. It was very trying times because up until then life was relatively well but then you get the diagnosis and feel like the whole world is collapsing in front of you.

“When we went for the initial appointment and got to meet everyone there, the nursing team, the surgeons, the way they handled the whole process from diagnosis to surgery and thereafter [was wonderful]. I looked back and I thought, in my day-to-day work, if I could try and make even one patient feel the way I felt through that process in terms of the care and support we received from the broader healthcare profession, I’d be really, really happy.”

In 2018, Kombe’s hard work paid off when he graduated from the OU and began working as a Practice Nurse at the same GP surgery where his journey had first begun.

“I can look back and say those years weren’t in vain. I have achieved something. Now I can also look ahead and think, ‘what else can I do?’ It’s fantastic.

“On top of that, once I graduated, I was nominated for a Queen’s Nursing Institute Scotland Award, that was one of the proudest moments of my life.”

To find out more about studying nursing at the OU, please visit our Nursing webpage


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