Laura Highley - Postgraduate Diploma in Advancing Practice District Nursing (Distinction)

Laura Highley
Having studied at RGU as a trainee nurse 21 years earlier, Laura returned to higher education to pursue her dream career as a District Nurse.

With the support of her employer at NHS Orkney, 40-year-old Laura decided to return to RGU where she’d studied a Diploma in Nursing as a trainee nurse 21 years earlier.

With a passion for nursing, mum of four Laura had fond memories of studying at RGU first time round and felt it was time for her to take the next steps in her career. She wanted to develop her nursing assessment and prescribing skills, and to enhance her leadership skills so that she could inspire a team as a District Nurse.

She’s now graduating with a Distinction in Advancing Practice in District Nursing, from the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Paramedic Practice and looks back fondly on her time at the university.

“RGU has been the centre of some of my life's most important aspects, personally and professionally, and has helped develop and mould me into the person I am today.

“From the young 19-year-old student nurse who walked through the doors at RGU for the very first time in 2002 to graduating as a District Nurse 21 years later.  I have made lifelong friends studying at RGU. I also met my husband whilst I was in Orkney on placement as a student nurse in 2003. I have a lot of happy memories studying with RGU.”

Throughout all her studies, which were 100% online, Laura juggled a busy family life including home school learning, during the Covid-19 pandemic, whilst working full time as a trainee District Nurse.

“RGU did exceptionally well delivering the courses online during a very uncertain period during Covid-19.  Even though I was taught solely online I never felt isolated.  The University made me feel very much part of a community and supported me throughout my studies.

“Learning online also allowed me to continue to work full-time and be a mum to my four boys.  I didn't need to go away for to study and my placements were both in Orkney. This all made a huge difference, enabling me to fulfil my dream of becoming a District Nurse without sacrificing family life.”

Laura is incredibly passionate about Community Nursing and attributes much of her enthusiasm to the lasting impression gained on a student community placement during her first degree and an inspirational mentor.

“When I returned to Orkney in 2019, the opportunity arose to be a Community Nurse working in the same surgery where I had been a student nurse. I worked alongside the same mentor who had inspired me all those years ago, and as I developed my knowledge and skills as a Community Nurse, I realised how much I loved my job. 

“Community Nursing is extremely fulfilling; you can make a real difference for patients every day.  It is a genuine privilege to care for patients in their own homes.  Enabling someone to stay at home can have a huge positive impact on the patient and their family, making the job very rewarding.

Laura says qualifying as a District Nurse, has been the pinnacle of her career to date and the skills she’s learnt has given her newfound knowledge to lead and care for her patients.

“Undertaking this post-graduate degree has developed my knowledge and skills to a level I had not thought possible.  I never believed I could achieve this qualification, let alone obtain a distinction.  None of this would have been possible if it hadn't been for the positive role models in my life, from my work colleagues within the team I work in at NHS Orkney, to my managers who believed I had the potential to be a District Nurse.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better personal tutor at RGU and can’t thank my course tutor enough for always being there for advice and support. I also had wonderful role models with and a supportive assessor and supervisor during my placements.

Looking ahead to the future, Laura says the skills she’s learnt will be invaluable to her career as a District Nurse in a rural community.

“RGU has given me the foundations to be a District Nurse that I will take with me moving forward into the future.  It has completely transformed how I care for my patients, enabling me to deliver more holistic and patient-centred care by using advanced assessment skills and practising daily as an independent prescriber.  I know that the skills I have learnt at RGU, will enhance the quality of patient care, and make a difference to the team I now lead.

“Lone working in a remote and rural setting on an island such as Orkney requires a high level of knowledge and skills.  It also requires innovative ways of thinking in providing care for patients.   Some patients on the island live in extremely rural environments, and you can be miles away from any medical help or even a phone signal. Therefore, you rely heavily on your knowledge and assessment skills.

“Assessing and prescribing in a remote and rural setting allows me to work more autonomously in the community, thus increasing the convenience and speed for the patient receiving the medicine, reducing waiting times, and improving continuity of care and how patients access services on the island.  It has also made a huge difference to our end-of-life patients in the community.”

“I think undertaking this post-graduate degree has taught me to believe in myself more and if it hadn't been for the encouragement and support of colleagues at NHS Orkney, and the support of my tutors at RGU, I wouldn't be where I am today.

“I now work as a Clinical Team Lead managing mainland Community Nursing in Orkney, which I absolutely love.  Orkney is so lucky to have the team of Community Nurses who are so caring and compassionate in the way they deliver care to patients.  I am so incredibly proud to lead this fantastic team of Community Nurses.

“I want to inspire others to follow in my footsteps and show the future District Nurses in my team how much this degree transforms your life on a personal and professional level and to realise that they, too, can achieve it.

“My journey shows that you can do anything you want if you put your mind to it!  Getting where I am today has been a challenging road, working full time, being a mum to four boys, plus studying every spare minute I had.  It was extremely hard work and required discipline.  I have been very fortunate to have such a supportive family and a very understanding husband.  You just need the right support and role models in your life, both academically and personally, who believe in you to give you the encouragement and confidence to carry on.

“RGU gave me the confidence and knowledge to prepare me as a District Nurse and as a Clinical Team Lead.  I will forever be grateful for the support all the tutors gave me during my time studying at RGU.”

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