A resilient Teesside University graduate has achieved her lifelong ambition of a career in nursing after returning to education as a mature student.

The higher apprenticeship route enabled Lisa Tomlinson-Cowie, 46, from Stockton-on-Tees, to follow her dream career as a nursing associate and help make a difference within the healthcare sector.

After completing the FdSc Nursing Associate programme in the School of Health & Life Sciences and sitting her exams in the height of the pandemic, Lisa graduated from the class of 2020 as a qualified nursing associate and enjoyed her special day with family, course mates and lecturers.

She said: “It’s been a long time coming, so it was great to finally get there in the end. It was such a wonderful feeling. Even though it was a little bit later because of the pandemic, it was still just as special.

“Seeing everybody in their robes and just generally having a good time after working so hard was amazing because that’s what it’s all about. There was a fantastic vibe, and we couldn’t have asked for any better weather.

“It was fabulous to finally get to throw that hat in the air too – that’s all I wanted to do.

“I hadn’t been on campus for two years, so it was lovely to walk around. It looks a lot different today than when I was studying here. It’s grown and expanded massively so that’s good to see as well.”

Lisa achieved her ambition, and now works as Nursing Associate at North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust in the outpatient department, specialising in dermatology.

And graduation is not all Lisa has celebrated this year. After four cancelled weddings and honeymoons due to the pandemic, she finally made it down the aisle.

Her family are incredibly proud of her achievements, as well as her commitment to giving back.

While juggling her studies, work placements and life as a mum, Lisa found the time to raise thousands for charity and raise awareness as a cancer survivor.

Since her cervical cancer diagnosis in 2007, when she was just 31, Lisa has lobbied for a reduction in the age that women can access cervical screenings. She overcame cervical cancer, as well as cancer in her appendix in 2015 which resulted in surgery.

In recognition of her charitable work and inspirational journey, Lisa received the Teesside Hero Award from Teesside Philanthropic Foundation during her studies.

Higher and degree apprenticeships at Teesside University combine academic study with real-world experience to provide students with the best training to prepare them for a career within industry.

Lisa valued the balance between practical experience and academic study, giving her the best of both worlds when it came to gaining her qualification and developing her skills and knowledge within various healthcare settings so that she could progress from a care assistant to a nursing associate role.

Lisa said: “The course played a massive part in getting me to where I am today because I’m an older student and, in reality, I wouldn’t have been able to afford to come to university if I hadn’t have done it through the apprenticeship with the support from North Tees & Hartlepool NHS Trust.

“You learn on the job so, rather than being brand new to an unfamiliar place, you’ve got the skills and the background behind you, which is definitely an advantage.

“A lot of older students are doing the FdSc Nursing Associate apprenticeship now and it’s fab to see because it’s always nice to have a diverse range of ages in the academic world. I would strongly recommend it to anyone looking to progress further within healthcare.”

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships

https://www.tees.ac.uk/sections/degree_apprenticeships/

More about graduation

https://www.tees.ac.uk/sections/alumni/graduation/