Harris-based nursing student Sara Wood-Kwasniewska graduated alongside Olympic curler Eve Muirhead in Inverness yesterday (Friday 2 November).
Sara, 47, graduated from the University of Stirling, after undertaking a BSc degree in Adult Nursing at the Western Isles campus.
More than 90 students graduating from Stirling’s Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport were joined by Eve Muirhead - who received the award of Doctor of the University in recognition of her outstanding contribution to British sport.
Eve won an Olympic bronze medal in 2014 and has been World, European and Scottish Champion.
Sara opted for a complete change of life, moving from Surrey to the Isle of Harris in 2015 to undertake her Adult Nursing degree after working with the ambulance service in London and the Home Counties for 15 years.
“I wanted to be able to understand and provide the full circle of care for my patients,” she said. “We would roll up outside various Accident and Emergency departments, having delivered quality care to our patients en-route, but I was always interested in what happened next. Were we right? What more could we have done? What more could I learn?
“Sometimes we would be able to find out but, more often than not, we would have to head off to another call.”
As well as studying for her degree and continuing to pursue her career in the ambulance service, Sara qualified as a Marine Mammal Medic during her time at University.
She is now working towards her advanced qualification and is the Assistant Coordinator for British Divers Marine Life Rescue for the Outer Hebrides Division.
“My medical training in both the nursing and ambulance sectors has helped enormously in helping me care for injured marine life,” she said. “Nursing has many faces, and all my patients are important to me. Whether they are human, dolphin, whale or seal, they all get the best care I can provide.”
After graduating, she will commute between Harlow – where she will combine work as a nurse in Accident and Emergency at the Princess Alexandra Hospital with her role as an advanced ambulance technician – and Harris, spending quality time with her family and continuing her marine life rescue volunteer work.
“I feel very privileged to be having an amazing work-life balance mix ahead,” she said. “The NHS has been extremely supportive of both my careers, providing flexibility in my working patterns so I can maintain both sets of skills.”
She will join a budding alumni community of more than 88,000 people located in 170 countries around the world.
The University of Stirling’s central Scotland campus – complete with a loch, castle and golf course – is home to more than 14,000 students and 1500 staff representing around 120 nationalities.