Health Care Support Workers continue to learn while working for the NHS

Judith Tait-Brown

A determined group of students, employed by NHS Borders, are continuing to further their careers and at the same time provide essential support in their roles as Health Care Support Workers.

The group of eight students are studying towards a level seven SQA qualification in Professional Practice, Health and Social Care, while at the same time working at Borders General Hospital, Melrose.

Before lockdown, students attended a weekly three-hour evening class in Galashiels led by Tutor Judith Tait-Brown (photo above), herself a former health care professional with 40 years' experience.

Judith explained:

"We have now moved the course completely online, and we meet each Thursday 'virtually' to work through the course syllabus, to complete the final assessment in July.

"My role is to support the students’ learning and understanding of the key themes around knowledge, skills and reflective practice in person-centred health care."

Not all students can attend the virtual sessions each week, due to work commitments at the hospital, so ongoing weekly engagement takes place electronically, with regular contact and feedback with the students and tutor.

Iain Coltman, one of the students on the course, said:

"The virtual classes are vital in providing essential support as I complete the final part of my learning. Our lecturer, Judith, has also provided much-needed support and guidance outwith the scheduled classes."

Also commenting on the course, Natasha Pringle said:

"I would say that the virtual learning classes have been great. I wasn't expecting them to be so good or easy, but I find it so useful. We get the help and support we need but don't have to leave the house or worry about childcare. Also, it’s nice to see everyone's face and talk to our class once a week."

Nicky Berry, Director of Nursing, Midwifery and Acute Services at NHS Borders, said:

“I would like to thank Borders College for their continued flexibility in supporting our staff to progress with their studies, which is a great reflection of the benefits of collaborative working. More importantly, I would like to thank the students for their continued efforts to develop their skills during these unprecedented times.

"Their drive to enhance patient care with their new knowledge is inspiring, and a great reflection of why supporting staff development is so important.”

The students taking part in the course are Natasha Pringle, Iain Coltman, Gillian Shepherd, Vikki Gray, Pru Jane Hunter-Oliver, Vicky Crouch, Jaqueline Idriss and Louise Williams.

Borders College is encouraging those who want to further develop their professional careers, with the option of earning while they learn, to visit the website and apply for one of our programmes today. 

For further help and advice, please contact our Student Advice Centre team by emailing

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