Nursing her future: Change in career path leads to caring profession

As the recession continues to bite, individuals may be looking to change their careers to a profession in which they can expect a good starting salary. With average wages of over £20,000, newly trained nurses can look forward to enjoying a career that is well-paid, meaningful and rewarding.

Adult Nursing StudentsThose who have busy work and home commitments may also be looking to learn new skills in a friendly environment which can help them adjust to full-time study.

Claire McGowan (35), a busy mum-of-two from Maryculter, is currently in her final year of the Adult Nursing Graduate Entry Programme at Robert Gordon University's School of Nursing and Midwifery, after previously graduating with a BSc in Health Sciences from Aberdeen University.

The Programme offers graduates with relevant science or social science degrees the opportunity to train as a nurse in two, rather than three years.

Despite enjoying her health sciences degree, Claire wanted to qualify in a more practical subject where she could get straight to work and therefore opted for a change in career. After working one-to-one at a Primary School for three years with a child with Aspergers Syndrome, Claire's interest in nursing was piqued.

Claire explains: "I found working at the School very rewarding, watching the child learn and adapt to life with Aspergers. After obtaining my health sciences degree, I found it difficult to gain employment in health research without going on to further study. Rather than working with statistics, I wanted to get out in the field and help people on a daily basis."

Claire applied to study nursing at the University in 2008, unaware of the Graduate Entry Route until her interview.

"I applied in 2008 as I felt that my kids were at the right age where I could commit to shift patterns, and that it was time to fulfil my own career ambitions. I was delighted that I could join the Graduate Entry Route as it meant I could qualify in two years, meaning I could start my new career sooner."

The two-year full-time programme combines the most up-to-date theory with practical modules. Students are taught in the Faculty of Health and Social Care's state-of-the-art Clinical Skills Centre, complete with mock hospital wards and functioning equipment, where students can put what they've learned in class into practice.

The course, which leads to registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, focuses on developing students both personally and professionally, enabling them to become confident and capable graduates equipped to practice effectively as registered nurses in a constantly changing environment.

Currently on placement in the busy Acute Medical Assessment Unit (AMAU) at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary, Claire is getting to apply the theory learned in class to real-life situations.

"The Ward I'm currently based in is an assessment ward for acutely and critically ill patients who have been brought in via Accident and Emergency. It's a 24-hour admission ward so can be quite challenging and fast-moving at times but I'm really enjoying the pace and can't wait to qualify."

Juggling her study with being a mum to Kieran (13) and Jasmine (11), hasn't always been easy, but Claire has found a strong support network during her studies.

"As well as the support of my family, friends and classmates, I've found my lecturers and personal tutor very approachable. Many of my lecturers have families themselves so understand the demands of combining a busy family life with study and placement commitments."

Martyn Main, Senior Lecturer at the School and Claire's personal tutor, adds: "Nursing can offer people of all ages a worthwhile and rewarding working life, with opportunities to progress up a clearly defined career ladder, and proves that it's never too late to change your profession. Becoming a nurse not only leads to a varied career, with no two days being the same, but can also lead to opportunities abroad.

"Students like Claire illustrate how the course can provide a new path to those who have originally qualified and have a background in health or science. As well as learning a new set of skills, graduates from the course will be able to embark upon a new career making a real difference to people's lives."

An Adult Nursing Graduate Entry Information event will be held on Saturday 26 March at the University's Faculty of Health and Social Care, Garthdee Road from 10am-2pm. For more information, please contact Susan Cumming on 01224 262982 or visit

Sarah Grieve
Communications Officer
Directorate for Marketing, Communications and Student Recruitment
Robert Gordon University
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262206