Advanced Practice Week – Working as a community Nurse in the Orkney Isles

I’m Helen a senior community nurse, living and working in the beautiful Orkney Isles.  I’ve lived in Orkney all my life, with the exception of the 3 years I lived in Aberdeen studying for a diploma of higher education in adult nursing.  On my return to Orkney, I found my way into community nursing after a short stint on palliative/cancer care ward.  It wasn’t long before I realised most doors which led to progressing a career in community nursing were closed without a degree.


The prospect of studying again for a degree was both an exciting but daunting one, however, seemed imperative. Imperative being the operative word. I saw this as a means to an end, to get to where I wanted to be, however, I was in for a bit of a shock! As I completed the extra modules I required for a degree, I noticed a change. A change in my practice, a change in my knowledge base, and a change in my whole nursing world. The degree was no longer a means to the end, but the start of everything. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t always easy, juggling a full-time job while studying. At times it led me to stress and tears and I’m not convinced I always got the recipe quite right at this point. On finishing my degree, I had a taste for education and an unquenching thirst to develop every inch of my nursing self. Finally, I was ready to undertake the preparation required to progress into a senior nursing role in the community.


I successfully applied for a development post to complete the postgraduate nursing diploma in advance practice (clinical practice) with RGU via distance learning. Again, I met this opportunity with both enthusiasm and nerves.  I was aware of the sacrifice I was about to make, losing that important ‘me’ time and instead dedicating all my time to studying but I knew it would be worth it.  I knew I would once again see the transformation in my nursing skills and it would lead to the senior role I craved.

At this point, my new, mature attitude towards study allowed me to see beyond ‘the means to an end’ attitude and embrace this opportunity to develop my nursing capabilities. Once again, I am in for another shock. As expected, I developed a wealth of advanced nursing skills, such as advanced clinical examinations and non-medical prescribing, underpinned by an advanced evidence base.


Having this knowledge and skills completely changed every element of my practice.  I had developed into a nurse who can complete a package of care from start to finish.  The picture just got a lot bigger and I’m not done there.

It turns out, advanced practice goes beyond clinical skills, it’s a transformation both professionally and personally across all four pillars of practice.  I become more and more in tune with myself, I reflect, I develop my emotional resilience, I reflect, I seek out 360-degree feedback, I reflect, I contribute to policy, I reflect, I teach, I reflect, I lead and again I reflect.  After two years, I completed the postgraduate diploma in advanced practice. It was only towards the end of this that I became fully acquainted with studying at masters level, so it seems silly to stop there.


Currently, I am completing my final year of the MSc in advance nursing practice carrying out my dissertation exploring the impact of advanced nursing skills in the community setting by conducting an integrative review.  The stress I had previously experienced during my studies has lifted, I have confidence that I will cope with and most importantly I recognise that the tears and worrying never helps. I take a relaxed approach and ensure that every minute I spend with my dissertation is enjoyable, suddenly my dissertation has become my ‘me time’. When not studying, I’m trying to establish myself into my new senior nursing role and utilise all aspects of my advanced practice abilities to the benefit of my patients, my team, and myself.


Embarking on a journey to complete an MSc in advanced nursing practice will be stressful, you’re bound to put on a few kgs (9kg but who’s counting?), your house will never be so tidy (I am the ultimate procrastinator) but if you let it, you will develop beyond your wildest aspirations and become the best possible nursing version of yourself and that’s a pretty amazing feeling!


Are you interested in advanced practice? RGU offer MSc Advancing Nursing Practice allowing experienced nurses or midwives to develop their skills and knowledge required for advanced practice.


  1. Amazing story, but all so true; especially the ‘tidy house and extra weight’. Ultimately as Nurses, it’s not about ‘us’ but what WE can do to improve our patients journey. #lovebeinganurse


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