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Sarah O'Donnell

PG Certificate Advanced Practice (Practice Nursing)

Sarah O'Donnell
  • Organised conference for 400 student nurses
  • Became a member of the University Senate
  • Mum-of-two from Leeds

Mum-of-two Sarah O'Donnell, 34, graduated with first class honours in BSc Nursing - Adult from the University of Bradford in December 2014.

But even before she graduated, she took on the PG Cert Advanced Practice (Practice Nursing) and is planning to complete her Master's to ensure she gets the most out of her new career.

"Practice nursing wasn't something you could do on the undergraduate course, and everyone said I should go for the PG Certificate," Sarah says.

"Practice nursing involves working as a team with GPs, health visitors and midwives, doing things like baby immunisations, vaccines, giving advice, wound care etc. We look after the whole range.

"The course involves two days in practice each week, one full day in University and the rest is study. It's full-on."

Mature student

Sarah entered higher education as a mature student, after more than a decade away from any sort of learning environment.

"Before doing my degree I was a single parent. My life had changed completely and I thought, what am I going to do with myself?

"I decided to do a degree and become a nurse.

"My family has pushed me to be a nurse - they've always told me I should be. But I'm glad I've done this as a mature student, as an adult.

"If I'd have trained to be a nurse when I was 18 I would not be the nurse I am now."

Why Bradford

Sarah lives in Otley, but says location wasn't the only factor when she decided to choose Bradford.

"It was mostly because it was local, but also where the placement areas were.

"That was the biggest pull.

"I'm working at Carlton Medical Practice, which is where I was on placement during my undergraduate degree. I had such an amazing mentor there and they helped me so much in the transition from student nurse to nurse."

The standard of teaching was also a major factor.

"I think I have a very good relationship with my teachers.

"Nursing teaches you professionalism and how to deal with people - being a mature student has helped with that too.

"Bradford is about the hands-on experience, the practical learning.

"Bradford will teach you to be a nurse, to feel like a nurse. You will become the nurse you would love to have looking after you."

Sarah O'Donnell with three co-leads from the LDAA conference.

Sarah O'Donnell worked with three co-leads from the University to organise the LDAA conference

Getting involved

Sarah says you get the most out of the University of Bradford if you engage with the institution and the people as much as possible.

"I became a student rep in the first year after my access course, and that's all about helping people.

"I then became a faculty rep, looking after all the students in the whole of the Faculty of Health Studies. That means students could come to me for help - and even though I've finished that course now students still come to find me!

"I also got to meet reps from all the other faculties and find out how we could work together - collaborate. We need to link together as much as possible because there's so much expertise in different areas across faculties."

As a student representative Sarah was also a member of Senate, which is the supreme academic body of the University.

"Networking is really important as a student nurse. It’s about making those connections.

"I've been to a lot of events around the country as an NHS Care Maker. Through these and on Twitter I speak to a lot of people - senior people in the NHS.

"I organised my own conference at Valley Parade in Bradford backed by the Vice-Chancellor and the Department of Health, called the Learning Disability Action Aware Conference.

"It was focussed on the complexities of mainstream services for people with learning disabilities and there were 400 attendees - all the students there had a positive experience and will spread that knowledge."

To those considering nursing at Bradford?

"Just do it."