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Keith Allan

AOUG awardsA healthcare assistant with over 16 years’ experience, who studied for an Adult Nursing degree on a NHS funded partnership programme with The OU, and who was diagnosed as being dyslexic during his degree, was delighted to receive his nursing registration.

Since qualifying, Keith ‘Keff’ Allan from Ayrshire (pictured far right) has worked in the emergency department at Ayr Hospital, and is now based at a community hospital in Cumnock.

He worked full time for NHS Ayrshire and Arran during his four year Bachelor of Science degree, latterly providing care assistance for a quadriplegic person at their home.

It was during a previous stint on a general medicine and cardiac ward at Ayr Hospital that Keith was encouraged by the ward sister to apply for the programme.

He said: “This programme is fantastic, excellent for any healthcare assistant that feels, ‘I’m at a crossroads in my career and I want to do something, I want to go higher, I want to take the next step, but how do I do that?’

“There were a few hurdles because my educational background was zilch. I didn’t have the relevant academic qualifications to progress. My first exam was when I started with The Open University.

“I undertook academic maths through one of The Open University programmes. I did that to gain the maths part of the requirements for the nursing degree [set by the Nursing and Midwifery Council]. And because of the commitment that I was showing and because I had relevant experience, The OU said they would take my National Vocational and Scottish Vocational Qualifications as being enough for the English Language requirements. 

“The fact I received such support and confidence from everyone was a great boost going into my studies.

Making a difference

“The only way I can make a difference to people with more complex and life changing conditions is by having the knowledge and the education. You need to basically take yourself to the next level of knowledge-based practice and that’s been the focus for me, knowing that the further I go, the more difference I can make to people’s lives, because I’m a people-centred person.”

Two years into his studies, Keith was diagnosed as being dyslexic. “If it wasn’t for The Open University I’d have just have said stop, enough’s enough, I’m not going any further with this degree, I cannot do it. 

“But there were individuals who were fantastic, and The Open University as an organisation I can’t speak highly enough of, because of the support I got.”

This included applying to the Student Awards Agency For Scotland (SAAS) for Disability Support Allowance to purchase special equipment. 

Keith’s wife Sharon and daughter Kirsty have supported him during his degree. “They’ve probably sacrificed more than me because they’ve given up a lot of family social time to allow me to study.

“At the end of the day, one of the reasons I did my degree was to make life better for us all, financially.”

Keith’s wife was diagnosed with cancer in the last year of his studies. “The Open University have known about that. And again, the support has been amazing, me putting in the special circumstances for my assessments, my exams, the support through that has been fantastic.”

The 44-year-old sat his final exam at home. “It was all new. But the support and the network was brilliant. The support team at The OU put everything in place, the invigilator coming to my house, the coloured exam paper (due to my Meares-Irlen Syndrome, which makes words on a white background look jumbled up) and just everything needed to make that day as straightforward – not easy, because it wasn’t easy – as possible.

New job

“With this programme and my positive exam results, I’m showing people out there that dyslexic people can get an honours degree.

“No sooner had I done my last exam and I was successful in applying for a nursing job in the emergency department at Ayr Hospital - I was over the moon! 

“I don’t want this journey to end.

“Hopefully I’ll be working within The Open University in the future, perhaps a volunteer role to start with, with a view to even aiming to be a practice tutor.” 

  • Keith is pictured above right (far right) at an Association of Open University Graduates (AOUG) Awards presentation in Edinburgh, November 2017. He received an AOUG Foundation for Education award from AOUG chairman Margaret Stobirski, marking incredible commitment to completing his studies in the face of adversity. Michael Davidson (far left), OU Staff Tutor for Nursing in Scotland, nominated Keith for his award.