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Caring school friends complete nursing degrees at RGU


Best friends Christie Birrell and Gary Liebnitz celebrated their graduation from Robert Gordon University (RGU) together after successfully completing their nursing degrees.

Best friends Christie Birrell and Gary Liebnitz celebrated their graduation after successfully completing their nursing degrees.Christie (24) and Gary (22) originally met during their fifth year at Speyside High School and have remained close friends throughout their studies.

Originally from Cardhu in Speyside, Gary struck up a friendship with Christie, who is from Dufftown, as they studied caring at school. It turned out to be a lasting bond which endured throughout their time as students.

The dynamic duo have both secured jobs with NHS Grampian and graduated in the same ceremony at Aberdeen Music Hall on Friday, December 13, each with a Bachelor of Nursing degree.

Gary, who now works as an Anaesthetic Nurse, said: “I feel incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to go to university, especially one as highly ranked as RGU. Christie and I both worked really hard to complete the course and it’s a great feeling for us to share this incredible experience.”

Christie, who was also nominated for the Jennie Parry prize for Academic and Clinical excellence, reflected fondly on her time at university.

She said: “I’m very proud of my achievements during my time at RGU. It's good to know that all my hard work and determination has paid off and I have graduated with distinction. Being able to do that on the same day as Gary is very special as we both started on the same path whilst at school together.”

After leaving secondary school, Gary moved to Aberdeen where he worked as a Care Assistant. Christie also secured a similar job in a care home in Aberlour and while there she furthered her qualifications by gaining an SVQ Level 2 and 3 in Health and Social Care.

Subsequently, Gary decided to further his knowledge and applied for and completed a HNC in Healthcare at North East Scotland College and gained entry to the second year of the Adult Nursing course at RGU.

He said “I was keen to study at RGU and be associated with the best modern university in the UK and one where so many students secure jobs shortly after finishing their course.”

Christie added: “I loved working as a Care Assistant and it has always been in my nature to care for others. Having already completed my SVQs I was keen to progress and begin my nursing career. I was particularly interested in studying at RGU and was impressed with the facilities available at the Faculty of Health and Social Care.”

Gary suspended his studies for a year and on returning in 2010 he was reunited with Christie and they were able to complete their final year together. He said: “Taking a year out was a very good move. As a result my placements changed which gave me the opportunity to gain experience within the preoperative environment, which helped me secure my first job in the field.”

Christie is also working for NHS Grampian in an Acute Geriatric ward and hopes to continue her professional development by completing the ‘Flying Start Programme.’

She said: “My main highlight of the course would have to be the great variety of placements and the wonderful nurses I have been fortunate enough to have as mentors and work with. I have so much admiration for them and I’m so thankful for the role they have played in my training. Being able to share this fantastic experience with Gary has made it even more special for us both.”

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Ross AndersonCommunications Officer | Health and Sport