Sara White pictured in the Bournemouth Gateway Building

As a former BU student and now Deputy Dean within the university’s Faculty of Health and Social Science, Sara White has seen key changes in the relationship between healthcare education, research and professional practice.

Sara was already working as a ward sister in intensive care at Salisbury District Hospital when she first attended Bournemouth University to complete a Diploma in Professional Studies in Nursing in 1992, and then a BSc (Hons) in Nursing Studies in 1994.

She said: “Up until that point, nurses had mostly trained and qualified on the job. I was mentoring new nurses coming into the profession and realised that an increasing number were working towards a university degree. I decided that I would do the same. My employer allowed me to take the days off to attend lectures, but that often meant working a night shift and then heading straight into university the next day.

“It was certainly challenging, but I enjoyed the opportunity to combine my professional experiences with new, theoretical knowledge. At that time there was a growing understanding and appreciation of the whole patient journey, and the impact of patient treatment on the wider family. The academic study also gave me new insights into leading teams, which was beneficial. I don’t think there is a right or wrong in terms whether practical experience or theoretical knowledge should come first. That is why the two are so embedded in our courses today.”

Soon after qualifying, Sara was approached to share her experiences in intensive care and paediatric ITU as a lecturer practitioner at BU. She said: “I had always enjoyed the teaching aspect of being a ward sister and felt this was a good opportunity to continue to support the next generation of nurses.”

In 1998 Sara made a permanent move to BU, where she has continued to develop her academic career by completing a Master’s, PhD and multiple other professional qualifications. Over the years she has seen an increased focus on the role and application of research.

Sara said: “As a university we are much more research focused than we were in the 1990s and that has been a positive shift. In healthcare, we talk about research in terms of providing an evidence base which can inform improvements in the delivery of services, which is incredibly important.

“That said, we haven’t lost our vocational focus and have retained the strong links with providers across the region who work in partnership with us to train their healthcare professionals. I believe that this combination of education, research and professional practice continues to set BU apart from other institutions.”