‘Three Musketeers’ answer the call to help battle virus

Three former Forth Valley College HNC students – calling themselves ‘The Three Musketeers’ on their WhatsApp chat – who progressed onto an Adult Nursing Degree, are helping in the fight against the Coronavirus epidemic.

As the country marks National Nurses Day (Wednesday May 6) the three student nurses are already showing the commitment, dedication, bravery and professionalism which has epitomised all NHS staff and keyworkers doing their best to save lives and keep us safe.

Joanne Bradford (52) and Beth Baxter (24) both from Bannockburn and Julie Sinclair (37) from Polmont, graduated with a HNC Care and Administrative Practice in October 2019 and are currently in second year studying for their BSc Adult Nursing at the University of Stirling.

The trio, along with almost 400 of their fellow nursing students, have stepped up to the plate with the backing of the university to do their 10/12 week course placement on the frontline in the battle against the pandemic, mainly at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert.

Joanne, who has worked as a health care assistant in the NHS for 14 years before focussing on becoming a qualified nurse, said: “I volunteered recently to do a couple of shifts on a Covid-19 ward at Forth Valley Royal Hospital and let the charge nurse know I would be available if she needed me. She offered me a 12 week contract.

“It was a no brainer for me to go and offer my services at this time. Helping people who are ill was why I entered nursing and I am totally committed to my profession. Stirling University have been great in encouraging us to get involved and it also means that this work counts towards our degree.

“Since I have been here, I have been talking to health care assistants who said they wished they had done their nursing qualifications too, but were worried about the academic side of things. I have told them that they should look at Forth Valley College’s HNC as a stepping stone to university as they have been brilliant and they give you great support to help you get through, just as Julie, Beth and I support each other during our studies.”

Beth, who completed a Modern Apprenticeship in Childcare, before finding work in a Stirling elderly care home and then being drawn to a career in nursing, said: “It was also easy for me to volunteer to do shifts right at this moment as an auxiliary nurse and help out on Covid -19 and non-Covid 19 wards, wherever I am needed. It is one massive team up at Forth Valley Royal Hospital with everyone from endoscopy to physiotherapy pitching in to help out as best they can. They are all brilliant.

“Myself and fellow FVC graduates Joanne and Julie are in the same year and help support each other at university and call ourselves ‘The Three Musketeers’ and we all really enjoy it. My advice to anyone thinking of getting into nursing would be to go for it, especially if it is something they want to do. The College helped me build my confidence with writing essays and sitting exams and preparing me for the step up to university.”

Julie (37), who was inspired to become a nurse after seeing what a wonderful job they did caring for her ill father Owen a few years ago, said: “Yes it’s frightening, but I am desperate to go and do what I can to help. I know I will be a small part of a team in a pyramid that is doing a great job and if I can do anything to free up more experienced medical professionals to get on with saving lives, then I will.

“Nursing is the best thing I have ever done and I was so impressed with the care that was offered to my dad when he was ill. Through this whole process of working to become a nurse and gain my degree, I have learned an awful lot about myself as well. As you are caring for people you need to look at everyone and try to understand them as a person without judgement, to help you care for them as best you can. It changes you as a person for the better.

“My advice to anyone thinking of nursing, would be to have a look at the HNC available at Forth Valley College as it really, really helped me gain the right foundations for nursing and prepared me for a good transition into university.”

An articulation agreement between FVC and the University of Stirling, which was signed in 2018, offers students on the college’s HNC Care and Administrative Practice the opportunity to advance their studies by entering into Year 2 of the University of Stirling’s nursing degree programmes in Adult or Mental Health Nursing.

Students on the HNC programme must complete 600 hours of placement during their year of study and gain an A or high B in their Graded Unit to be eligible for consideration.

Forth Valley College Principal Dr Ken Thomson, said: “We are so proud of Joanne, Beth and Julie and the work they are doing on the front line during this time. They graduated last year with an HNC and progressed onto the second year of a Nursing degree with our partners at the University of Stirling. This is another great example of how Forth Valley College can Make Learning Work and help to create the next generation of medical professionals who are proving just how vital and essential they are in our society. I wish them well and know they will inspire more people to look at our care provision and see how it can help them advance their careers.”

Professor Jayne Donaldson, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport at the University of Stirling, said: “I am very proud that our dedicated and talented army of student nurses, alongside staff from the University, have stepped forward to support the national effort.

“Our students can take confidence from the training and skills that they’ve learned and honed during their time at the University and Forth Valley College – and I know that they will make a real difference to the coronavirus response and play an important role in ensuring the health and wellbeing of patients.

“I know our entire University community will join me in thanking our students and staff for their phenomenal response – and wish them all the best as they join the frontline.”