Case study


Deciding when the time is right to study as a mature student is a hugely personal decision. Having raised and supported a family, Clearing provided Claire Brown with the most immediate path towards a career in Adult Nursing.

Finding time

When Claire Brown decided she wanted to go back to university, she looked at Derby – and found the nursing course she wanted to study was even closer to home, in Chesterfield.

Claire had begun a different degree with us ten years earlier. She was left with the feeling of ‘unfinished business’ when family circumstances meant that she was unable to finish that course at the time.

Since then, the experience she gained has steered her towards the healthcare vocation. Claire explains: “I had always worked within the care sector on and off since I was 17 years old. I started off in a nursing home for people with learning difficulties, and then my last job before I started my degree was on a respiratory ward in an acute setting. This was a challenging role. However, I found where I was supposed to be.”

Changing family circumstances reset Claire’s path again. With her children now older – and a daughter graduating from our Professional Policing degree – she was ready to look again.

Adult Nursing graduate, Claire Brown

I couldn’t have done it when they were younger, it’s such a full-on course. But I thought – now it’s my time.

Claire Brown
On deciding the time was right

Claire felt the University was as welcoming and supportive as she remembered, which led to her applying in late August for our Adult Nursing course through Clearing. Reassuringly, though she had previously started a degree in another subject, Claire still qualified for additional funding available to certain healthcare students, which would help her pay for her tuition fees.

Experiencing placements

One big advantage Claire had compared to her younger peers was her experience of working in the sector, which gave her a familiarity with clinical settings. During her degree, Claire undertook placements on a range of wards and clinics at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, Nottingham Hospital, and in the community in the Peak District. Each placement gave her a different outlook on caring for patients.

She says: “In each of my placements, I took away a great deal of knowledge and understanding. I found that the more exposure you had to things, such as medication rounds, which is a major part of nursing, the more you learned regarding the medications and their numerical values.”
“University prepared you for the theory and evidence base behind what you do as a nurse, but it’s not until you actually do it for real that you fully learn, as each supervisor you work alongside on placement has different skills and expertise to learn from.”

Publishing research

In her final year, Claire researched the subject of blood transfusion errors for her dissertation. She is now in the process of having two articles – written with her Independent Study supervisor, Michelle Brown, Head of Discipline Adult Nursing – published in the British Journal of Nursing.
Claire’s interest in the topic was sparked from working for the blood and transplant team throughout the summer, collecting convalescent plasma to aid the recovery of covid patients.

She explains: “I had heard of errors in transfusion although never witnessed one and it just made me think about the patients and errors like that should never happen and can be totally prevented if policy and procedures are carried out in full. I’m hoping to go into patient safety and quality improvement roles in the future, so having my work published will benefit me in my future career.”

Overcoming challenges

Claire credits the teaching team at Derby for pushing her to succeed. She says: “During my time at University, I overcame many challenges. I nearly didn’t make it through the first year. If it wasn’t for the academics rooting for me and offering support, I wouldn’t have got through it at all.”

When Claire unfortunately encountered a period of illness in her final year, she fell behind with her work and placements. She credits the encouragement of the teaching team with helping her through that difficult time. “It was hard work and I had to extend my studies, but I finally graduated with the rest of my cohort which I never thought I would do.” Claire’s commitment was recognised by her graduating with a first-class degree.

The next goal

Claire is now a fully registered nurse working in respiratory medicine at Chesterfield Royal Hospital. She says: “When you get to the end of the three years and you get your certificate and NMC PIN number, you feel immensely proud of yourself and, at the end of it, you get to look after people when they need you the most, which is an amazing privilege.”

Eventually, Claire hopes to impact the profession more strategically, with a PhD in nursing, and a focus on patient safety.

Her advice to others in her situation would “to just go for it.” She acknowledges it can be difficult, but believes it’s worth it. She explains: “When you’re holding a patient’s hand and they’re smiling at you, you know you’ve done a good job. It’s very fulfilling, out of all the thing’s I’ve tried. It’s where I’m supposed to be.”