Inspirational Student Nurse Highlights Different Paths into Nursing

Nursing is a rewarding profession that opens doors to a wide range of roles in caring for others and promoting health and wellbeing. However, contrary to popular belief, it is also a profession which can be accessed through many different paths and at different stages in life, as one University of Stirling student has demonstrated.

Deborah Veitch, 39, is studying in her second year of Adult Nursing at the University of Stirling after leaving her office job in financial services to pursue a career that she would find more fulfilling.

The mum of three got into the Forth Valley College HNC Healthcare Practice course by working as a Nurse Assistant within NHS Forth Valley’s Learning Disability Team, where she split her time between work and college, before getting a place on the second year of the University course. 

Her experience, attitude and interest in healthcare meant she met the necessary entrance requirements to be accepted onto the course, while the course’s flexibility and support meant she could make studying for her nursing degree work around her busy life. 

Deborah’s journey to studying nursing is just one of several different entry routes for the University’s two flagship nursing courses – Adult Nursing and Mental Health Nursing. Others include access and introductory courses, some of which can be completed online or are flexible enough to be combined with an existing job. 

“For me, aged 39, retraining with three children and financial commitments, the fact that the course was paid for and I didn’t have to take this big financial break, really supported this avenue” Deborah explained.

While having the chance to care for others was also a huge driver to make the leap into nursing. She continued, “I wanted to be the person that got alongside someone when they were having a really difficult time. You’re that lifeline and you’re that person that’s given them some strength, encouragement and some comfort.”

Deborah said she had come across adult nurses who had trained straight out of school but the majority who were a similar age to herself or a little older had also gone down the mature student route.  She explained: “I think that’s really encouraging for people to think you don’t have to study nursing straight out of high school. The variety of career opportunities is incredible and the responsibility is great as well. There’s a lot of autonomy in the job and I really like that.”

More opportunities are being made available for mature workers to retrain as nursing and healthcare staff thanks to a unique partnership between NHS Forth Valley, the University of Stirling and Forth Valley College.

Those who are keen to switch careers later in life could start their journey in a similar way to Deborah, via a qualification at college that could culminate in an honours degree and promising career. 

Rosario Walsh, Senior Charge Nurse, NHS Forth Valley, said: “The quality of the students at the University of Stirling is excellent and has been consistent for such a long time. 

“There are so many opportunities in nursing that you can learn from and develop like medical nursing, surgical and palliative care. You can actually go down so many different routes or pathways in your nursing career.”

Nursing student Deborah also explained why pursuing a career in nursing is so rewarding. She said: “The best thing I feel about nursing is that the world is your oyster. There are many genres of nursing, many patterns of work, the areas you can go into. British nurses are in demand all over the world and that’s an exciting thing.”

Prof Frances Dodd, Executive Nurse Director, NHS Forth Valley, said: “It’s great to hear from people like Deborah who have made the decision to retrain as a nurse later in life as it shows that there are many different pathways into nursing and it’s never too late to start your nursing career.

“Healthcare support workers do a fantastic job and can become excellent nurses if they decide they want to go down this route. There is also a wide range of practical and financial support available to help people while they train as a nurse and I’ve encourage anyone who has an interest in nursing to find out more about the many opportunities and options available.”

Professor Jayne Donaldson, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport, University of Stirling, said: “We aim to ensure all of our nurses, no matter their background, leave University as confident, compassionate practitioners, fully equipped with the important theoretical knowledge and hands on practical experience to embrace the unique challenges and opportunities a career in nursing affords. We would encourage anyone considering a move into nursing who isn’t sure if they’re able to make the change, to come and speak to us about the range of options and entry routes available.”

The University of Stirling’s nursing courses are approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council and have seen many students collect Student Nursing Times Awards during their studies.

The University was ranked top 5 in Scotland for Nursing in the Complete University Guide 2023 and The Guardian University Guide 2023, with degrees taught by world-leading academics.

Additional Information 

You can watch a short video where Deborah Veitch discusses her nursing journey here.