Paulina Kamenska
Access to Nursing
I came to Scotland in 2010 as a 20-year-old, straight after high school, barely passing my final exams and having very basic English communication skills. I worked in a laundry for a number of years, earning money and sending it home to pay off debts and support my family. During that time, I undertook ESOL courses to improve my communication and employability skills, got married and had a daughter. Having a stable and secure job did not put pressure on me to seek other employment. It was very depressing at times, but it paid my bills - until I was made redundant. At that time, I decided that whatever I do next in my career must be meaningful.

I started to work in the care sector, first as a home carer then as a care assistant in one of the care homes. I found it very rewarding, but I had a feeling that I was capable of doing more to support vulnerable patients. I used to stay next to the Kirkcaldy campus of University of Dundee, and I always looked with jealously on my next-door neighbour’s student nurse’s uniform. Frequently I visited the University of Dundee website to check entry requirements for Adult Nursing programme just to reassure myself that this was not form me.

During my redundancy period I received support from Skills Development Scotland. I worked with Keith and he helped me with job and college applications. I managed to get myself on to the Access to Nursing course at Fife College. At that time, I had a couple of years gap in my education, I had never thought of applying into higher education. But I had nothing to lose, so I did.

I was lucky to get support from SWAP programme, as in my final exams I did not get a required mark to secure my entry into higher education. Thanks to SWAP, I got accepted for Adult Nursing at the University of Dundee. During the first year I felt like an imposter, I struggled very much with my academic work, but I found practice placements so rewarding and enjoyable. There were hard times during Covid19 pandemic as all learning was happening online and I felt very isolated and hopeless. Despite these challenges I managed to complete my undergraduate with distinction! Still find it hard to believe it.

I have got a job in medical admissions, and I am just about to complete my full time MSc in Nursing and Health. Sometimes I think what my life would look like if I did not get help from SWAP and failed my exams. I believe this programme gave me a huge opportunity that I used very well and now I am able to pay this debt back in giving the best care possible to my patients.

Never have I felt better and prouder of myself in my whole life. It is all very empowering so my journey does not end but only begins! Thank you SDS and SWAP for giving me a chance and changing my life!
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