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Gemma Lee

Access to HE Diploma (Nursing & Midwifery) Graduate

You can do it. It's not as difficult as you think it is. It's not impossible. Just don't let anything hold you back. You only live once, you've got to give it a go!

Gemma's story

Gemma was inspired to become a nurse after seeing how NHS staff cared for her son before he passed away. However, as she had left school before sitting her GCSEs she wasn’t sure how to make her dream become a reality.


‘I started to look online and that's how I come across the Access to HE Diploma. I was looking at a change of career as I'd always done jobs just for the money, but now I wanted to do something that I really wanted to do - I just didn't know what kind of nurse I wanted to be!


‘Two months into the course I decided I wanted to go into disability nursing as I felt they get to build more rapport with their patients rather than see them come and go.’


Reflecting on her studies, Gemma admits that adjusting back to life in education was hard. Juggling being a parent and working 12-hour shifts at a mental health hospital alongside her studies was a challenge, but Gemma says the support she received was ‘tremendous’.


She added: ‘It was hard but it's very doable. I think that most people are too afraid to do it because they think it's too hard.


‘For anybody that thinks that they can't, they can. If I can do it, anybody can! My English was terrible. I would write the way I speak because that's all I ever had to do. I had so much to learn. My first few assignments compared to those at the end were terrible.’


Gemma felt that the progress she made with her academic skills was evident not only in her studies but in her personal life, too. Before starting the course, Gemma would ask her sister to write emails to schools and fill our paperwork for her, something that she is now happy to do herself.


Having developed these skills, Gemma believes that the Access to HE Diploma has her well prepared for life in university:


‘It was assignment after assignment. Once you’ve done one, you've got another to do and sometimes you'd have three running alongside each other. If you can do that, I'm pretty sure you can cope in university.’


Her dedication to her studies led to recognition from the prestigious Keith Fletcher Awards, after being named runner-up in the ‘Outstanding Commitment to Study’ category. Gemma had overcome significant challenges throughout her studies, including caring for her father until he passed away, which made external recognition even more meaningful.


She said: ‘When I got the email, I cried. I'm not an emotional person. I cried when my kids were born but I'm not a person who usually cries. It was absolutely amazing even to be nominated, but to be runner up was astonishing. The achievement was amazing and for other people to have recognised it was something else.’


Reflecting on her academic journey, Gemma hopes her story will encourage others to see that it’s never too difficult or late to get back into education. For those considering education later in life, and for those who believe they can’t do it, Gemma says:


‘You can do it. It's not as difficult as you think it is. It's not impossible. Just don't let anything hold you back. You only live once, you've got to give it a go. You've got to try. It's not as terrifying as you think it is, just make that first step.’


Gemma received an offer to study at the University of Leicester but has decided to wait until the next academic year to study at an institution closer to home for ease of childcare.