SWAP Access to Nursing students: where are they now?

A look back at our first cohort of SWAP Access to Nursing students and their journeys to nursing.

It’s hard to believe that four years have passed since the Scottish Wider Access Programme (SWAP) Access to Nursing course first started here at UHI Argyll. The programme is specifically designed for adults who are returning to education after a gap, and who have the motivation and ability to go on to study a nursing programme at university.

In 2019, the first cohort of students from across Argyll began their journey to nursing. Like most adult returners they had quite a few things in common – they lacked confidence, had low self-esteem and did not have necessary qualifications - but all wanted to be nurses. With a variety of life experiences and transferable skills under their belt, they attended their local centre and began to learn how to become students again, preparing themselves for university.

These students have now come to the end of their academic journey to nursing and are about to embark on the next stage of their chosen careers. We caught up with some of them to hear about their experiences.

Heather Nicol

An image of Heather Nicol

In 2019 UHI Argyll advertised the SWAP Access to Nursing Course and I applied for a position immediately. I had always wanted to be a nurse; however, life chose a different path and at the age of 30 with 3 young children I decided it was a sensible time to work towards a BSc in Adult Nursing.

The SWAP Access course introduced me to academic writing, critical thinking, and clinical practice skills. The course stood me in good stead when applying for university, I was well supported by my lecturers and my peers who I now consider to be some of my dearest friends.

The transition to university was somewhat different compared to previous cohorts, we were 'The Covid Cohort', and apart from clinical skills labs, mandatory training, and practice learning experience, my first year at university was delivered via online classes. As I began my second-year restrictions had begun to ease and I would travel to Paisley twice a week for lecturers. The opportunity to finally attend campus opened a whole new support network of peers.

In mid-September, I took a Band 5 staff nurse post in the medical ward of Lorn and Islands Hospital, Oban. This is just the beginning for me, and I am excited to build and gain experience with hopes of working towards my masters in minor injuries and prescribing. But without the help and support of the SWAP Access to Nursing lecturers at UHI Argyll, I would never have made it to this point.

Nursing students are a different breed; we support and care for each other, and are always ready to cheer on our peers towards the finish line.

Florence Aura

An image of Florence Aura

The SWAP course at UHI Argyll, Lochgilphead paved the way for me to be where I am today, and I will be eternally grateful. I was an adult learner who had been out of education for several years, but I was extremely fortunate due to the tremendous support I received from my lecturers, and the entire college staff.

UHI Argyll provided me with support and encouragement, as well as activities and resources to help me prepare for higher education. After finishing my SWAP course, I went to Glasgow Caledonian University as a Student Adult Nurse, and it was the best decision I ever made.

Glasgow Caledonian University has been a great place to study. Juggling family, work, and studies has been challenging, but I can assure you that it is doable, and when you really want something, you don't think about it; you just do it, no matter how difficult things get, because it is worth it.

I loved my experience as a Student Adult Nurse, although it was challenging at times. I gained so much knowledge and lots of new skills through clinical placement as well as academic modules which have allowed me to transition from being a student to a newly qualified registered nurse.

I can't believe how the three years have flown by. All I can say is that it's worth it and nursing is a very rewarding career. It's hard to believe that I'm now a qualified Adult Nurse at the Vale of Leven Hospital, Alexandria. 

I know the road ahead will not be easy, but I am looking forward to learning new skills and expanding my knowledge to become a confident practitioner. Furthermore, I am all about caring for people and making a difference in their lives.

I simply want to encourage anyone else who is thinking about doing the same to go for it because it will be the best decision you will ever make and there will be a lot of support available to help you follow your dream.

Sarah Lewis

An image of Sarah Lewis

I'm a mature student who was 34 years old when starting my studies. I joined UHI Argyll's SWAP Access to Nursing course to progress to my degree as I had been out of academia for a while. I completed my studies with good grades and joined UWS Paisley on the BSc Adult Nursing course in the 2020 Cohort.

Covid had a huge impact on our studies and placements were restricted but we powered through and managed to complete the year. Year 2 was a game of catch up, 26 weeks of placements to catch up the lost weeks from year 1. More In-depth modules, more exams and more online classes, but we could finally see the light at the end of second year as we started to return to campus for some classes.

Luckily by third year, normality was restored and classes were all on campus.

Since qualifying I've taken up a band 5 post as a scrub nurse in the Orthopaedic Theatres at the Golden Jubilee National Hospital.

The past 4 years have been a roller coaster of emotions. Tears, laughter, and everything in between. I have made friends for life and found a passion for this fantastic vocation. UHI Argyll undoubtedly prepared me for university, I couldn't have done this without the strong foundation of skills, knowledge, and academic preparation that the SWAP access to nursing course provided me with before I started my degree.

UHI Argyll SWAP Access to Nursing Lecturer, Linda Brown, says:

It is always a privilege to be part of a student’s journey to nursing. Often the biggest step to take is the one to apply for the course in the first place. If you would like to fulfil your dream of becoming a nurse, we encourage you to take this first step and speak to us about the course.

More information about the SWAP Access to Nursing course can be found here.