Few professions boast the same employment and travel opportunities as nursing. Before joining Plymouth University in 2013, Head of School of Nursing and Midwifery Bridie Kent worked in Australia and New Zealand for many years. We sat down with her to discuss how Plymouth University’s strong industry partnerships, both local and global, can enable its graduates to find rewarding, globetrotting careers…
How did you get started in nursing?
None of my family were involved in healthcare, so it came a little from left field. I think my mum first realised my interest when I tried to dose my Tiny Tears Doll with medication. My dollies used to end up with constipation a lot of time due to the amount of stuff I packed into them!
How has training evolved since you were a student?
Today, our students spend 50 per cent of their time out in practice, learning with other nurses and dealing with patients’ real-time problems. Go back a few decades and it was very much an apprenticeship model, where the schools of nursing were embedded within the hospitals. So you had that sense of belonging to a hospital rather than to a university.
Which do you think is better?
I think students are far better supported now. I did nightshifts at hospitals largely run by student nurses. I remember frequently being a second or third year nurse in charge of a ward of 30 patients! Today, students are hands-on but firmly under the guidance of registered nurses. There’s far less room for things to go wrong. But the main thing is, you didn’t get the chance to see many other hospitals before, so you didn’t get the variety of experience that you do today.
How do Plymouth’s partnerships provide a broader range of experience?
We have good links with all of the trusts across the southwest region, including the major trauma unit, and students have the opportunity to work in the emergency units. We’re also trying to take the emphasis away from the acute sector, towards community, mental health and integrated care. We have links with SWAS (South Western Ambulance Service), and students spend time understanding what happens in a pre-hospital setting. We’ve got growing links with the military. It’s not just looking at the medical side of things, either, there can be psychological and social problems too. It’s the whole breadth of health and social care – we’re ideally placed to have our students experience all of that.
The school is known for its high employment rate. How does it help students transition from uni to work?
It’s no secret that in the NHS there’s a shortage of nurses and midwives, so we work closely with our local healthcare partners to see what their needs are, and help graduates to meet them. We recently arranged a conference with the Royal College of Nursing, and we invited as many of our partners as possible. Students had the opportunity to talk to local trusts that were recruiting. And it’s not just nursing – Plymouth offers the widest variety of healthcare courses in the South West, some of which boast 100% employment. Add to that our clinical facilities and real-life placements, and our graduates are perfectly placed to pursue a career in their chosen field.
What opportunities are there for graduate nurses to work abroad?
Nursing is a qualification that will take you almost wherever you want to go. We have students who are interested in doing voluntary work in places such as Nepal. With the Erasmus Exchange Program, we have links with four or five universities around the world. We’re currently setting up such a scheme with a university in Portugal. Because myself and one of our other professors worked in Australia, we’ve got good links with several universities there.
Finally, for any students on the fence: why would you recommend nursing?
I think it’s one of those careers where it’s challenging but also extremely rewarding. And the rewards come from working with people who really do need your help, and it’s working in partnership to help them to better deal with the illness or conditions that are affecting them. Also, there are few professions out there that offer such diversity to help you really find your niche, and to grow and develop into it.