From hair to care

After a career as a hairdresser and barber, Emma Bird was compelled to become a nurse once she started working at a local trust hospital while the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing.

Emma looked into the educational opportunities available to her and chose to go down the Access to HE route as she wanted to continue her studies at university. Emma enrolled at Hertford Regional College to study Access to HE Diploma (Nursing and Midwifery).

Steps ahead of other students

Speaking highly of her time during the course, Emma says that her self-confidence flourished thanks to studying for the Diploma.

“My self-empowerment has changed greatly! I feel this started whilst I was on the Access course. When I was in secondary school, I did not have the confidence to ask questions and was in the lower set of classes. I now have the confidence to liaise with the nursing staff at University, and on placements.”

My self-empowerment has changed greatly! I feel this started whilst I was on the Access course.

Emma Bird, Access to HE student

Emma is in her first year studying BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing at the University of Essex. She praises the Access to HE Diploma for putting her at an advantage when compared to other learners, thanks to the writing skills learned and the knowledge covered during her course.

“I am doing similar modules at university, meaning I am a small step ahead of others. I am also extremely lucky to have been taught how to reference too; I have gained a very large advantage compared to my cohort who has had to learn how to cite and reference during their first year.

Access to HE Diplomas are intensive courses that see learners push themselves and discover they are capable of far more than they may have believed possible. Emma has encouraged herself to take on more than her studies, embracing university life and new experiences. While at university, she works at a learning disability home as a healthcare support worker. She is also a Student Ambassador and Student Rep for UoE and a Student Ambassador for the Royal College of Nursing.

Go for it!

After graduation, Emma will become a registered nurse. From there, several pathways of interest exist for her, such as gaining a Master’s degree, working within the healthcare industry as a nurse practitioner in a GP surgery or specialising in dermatology.

Asking her for advice for anyone looking to give Access to HE a chance, she offers words of wisdom: “Go for it!!! You don’t need to be young; you don’t need to know everything and anything! Just be you and allow the teaching to commence. Listen to the tutors, give yourself time to study, plan ahead with assignments, and ensure you speak up when you are struggling.”

Emma’s tips for Access to HE students:

  • Get a planner – mark down when assignments are due; this will help plan ahead.
  • Watch YouTube videos – ask your tutors for videos relating to the module
  • Don’t just reference websites – remember to use books, journals, reports!
  • Cite them Right – a great website to help you with citations and references
  • Have a rest day – reward yourself with a day off to prevent classes and assignments from becoming overwhelming!

Speaking to Julia Anderson, Emma’s lecturer at Hertford Regional College:

“Emma gave everything to her Access studies, rose to the challenge and remained resilient when learning and studying was hard. The information gained, along with her experiences really added value to the group. We are proud of Emma; her achievements she gained with us and her dedication to her future career. We are delighted we could play a small part in Emma’s learning journey. Emma continues to be an advocate for the Access course, coming back to speak to current learners about her experiences and sharing her top tips for success!”