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Nursing's next generation: Sophie McKay

Meet Sophie McKay, a Middlesex nursing graduate who is also shaping the experiences of current nursing students in her role as Vice President for Health & Education and Science & Technology for the Middlesex University Student Union.

Sophie McKay Middlesex University nursingWhat have been the highlights of your two years as Vice President for Health & Education and Science & Technology (HEST)?

Making the transition from being a student to being a member of staff at Middlesex has been amazing.

As Vice President for HEST I represent everyone in the Schools of Health & Education and Science & Technology and I've had the opportunity to meet some truly amazing students studying to be nurses, midwives and a whole range of professions, who have been really inspiring.

Middlesex is such a unique university that I think the students that come here are very unique themselves, and it's been amazing to hear their different stories.

You are also a part-time nurse alongside your role at Middlesex University. How has your time at Middlesex prepared you for this role?

My training at Middlesex was amazing. My favourite thing about training to be a nurse here was the support that you get from your lecturers. You're assigned a Personal Development Tutor that you meet three times a year, or more if you need to, and they'll talk you through your academic work and see how you're getting on with placements. They provide a lot of all-round support, which is crucial because nursing can be a scary course to do, and a tough career to go into.

Middlesex is also really good at getting you into the pattern of thinking about nursing in a different way. As an example, the debriefs you do after your placements force you to really reflect on what happened during your placement. It prepares you for dealing with difficult situations, while making sure you think about your own wellbeing as well, because you can't nurse other people if you're not well yourself.

On top of that, my experience as VP has also given me excellent leadership skills and confidence that I never had before. I'm happy to speak in front of huge numbers of people now, which I never would have dreamed about at the start of my time here. All the opportunities I've had, like being able to go and work in a hospital in China, have come from Middlesex. It's really prepared me for life.

What made you want to be a nurse?

Nursing was quite an obvious career because I love people and children and my main personality trait is caring so it was a really good option for me. I always knew I was good with people and with children. I first went to college to pursue training as a fitness instructor, and I met a teacher who really inspired me. She invited me to take part in a trip to South Africa, where I ended up doing first aid at a series of rugby and football matches.

It was while I was there that I first realised I liked first aid. One of the players fell badly in one of the rugby games, dislocating his shoulder in the process, and I had to take charge and deal with him. That was the point at which I realised I was quite good at providing aid as well.

Which aspects of your time at Middlesex have been particularly enjoyable?

Like I said, the support on the course is brilliant, but the connections you make with people on your course and people here at Middlesex are amazing. The societies and the sports teams are also fantastic. Whatever you're into, Middlesex has something for you.

What makes HEST graduates stand out?

There are three VPs, each of which look after two Schools, but I always say I have the best school. I've got the most students in my two schools, but I've also got the future nurses, future midwives, social workers, teachers and biochemists that might go on to do medicine or be sports therapists, psychologists and so many more.

These are the people that will be teaching, healing and creating the future of Britain and maybe even the world. In my two schools alone we've got people who are at the forefront of healthcare. That's why I think HEST students at Middlesex stand out. Lots of students come to Middlesex from a non-traditional route and we all do really well here; it really develops you both academically and as a person.

What are your tips for prospective students looking to study at Middlesex?

If you're interested in the social side of the University then get involved in a society or a sports team. They become your family while you're at Middlesex, and they're your support group when you're struggling with assignments or placements.

If you're on a professional course then definitely make sure you have people to talk to about your experiences. Sometimes it's tough on placement and sometimes the course will be hard, but if you have your housemates or someone to talk to about it then it gets easier. Don't let things get on top of you. And make sure you get your assignments in on time!

In your third year make sure you go to your employability service. They'll sort out your CV and help you get a job. There's so much support at Middlesex if you just go out and find it.

What are your plans for the future?

I finish at the end of June after five years of studying and working at Middlesex, so I'm going to take two months off and go travelling around Europe for a bit of a break.

In September I start my new job as a full-time nurse at the same children's ward I've been working part-time in for the last two years at Whittington Hospital in Archway. I'll be there full-time but I also have an opportunity with Middlesex University, hopefully doing one day a week as an honorary clinical lecturer. So I'll be teaching the next cohort of students about blood pressure and clinical skills, which is really exciting!

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