Studying MSc Advancing Practice

Helen speaking to a group of nurses

I’m Helen, a Senior Community Nurse, living and working in the beautiful Orkney Isles. Find out more about my journey studying MSc Advancing Practice at RGU.

How it all began

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 in the palliative/cancer care ward. It wasn’t long before I realised most doors that 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! 

Preparing for MSc Advancing Practice

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 with studying at times led 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 educationally, professionally and personally ready to undertake the preparation required to progress into a senior nursing role in the community.

Helen looking over a chart with a colleague

Studying MSc Advancing Practice

I successfully applied for a development post to complete MSc Advancing Practice with RGU. 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 could complete a package of care from start to finish.  The picture just got a lot bigger and I wasn’t done there. It turned out, advancing practice goes beyond clinical skills, it’s a transformation both professionally and personally across all four pillars of practice.  I became more and more in tune with myself. I reflected, I developed my emotional resilience. I reflected, I sought out 360-degree feedback. I reflected, I contributed to policy, I reflected, I taught, I reflected, I lead and I reflected again.  It was only after two years that I became fully acquainted with studying at the Master’s level, so it seemed silly to stop there.

I completed my final year of the Master’s degree carrying out my dissertation which explored the impact of advanced nursing skills in the community setting by conducting an integrative review.   The stress I had previously experienced during my studies lifted, I had confidence that I would cope and most importantly I recognised that the tears and worrying never helped.  I took a relaxed approach and ensured that every minute I spent with my dissertation was enjoyable. Suddenly my dissertation had become my ‘me time’.  When I was not studying, I was trying to establish myself in my new senior nursing role and utilise all aspects of my advancing practice abilities to the benefit of my patients, my team, and myself.

Helen using a stethoscope with a patient

Advice to those thinking about studying MSc Advancing Practice

Embarking on a journey to complete an MSc in Advancing 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!


*Please note this blog was written, and photos taken prior to COVID-19*

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