When Kristin Jackson-Brown graduates from Dundee University later this month with a Masters degree, it will mark the beginning of a year away from studying. But only one. She already has plans to start work on a PhD in 2012.
And all this in addition to being the youngest Matron-Manager in Aberdeen. Kristin was appointed to the post four years ago when she was just 24 by Mrs Rona Tayler, owner and Managing Director of Hawkhill House, Aberdeen’s only remaining independently owned private nursing home. Under Kristin’s guidance, the home consistently achieves very high ratings in Care Commission inspections so it was hardly surprising that Kristin’s academic grades over the past three years have been correspondingly high. She achieved an A for her dissertation on staff satisfaction in care homes. She also studied modules in strategic management and leadership.
Kristin studied for her first degree, a BSc (Hons) in Nursing, at RGU in Aberdeen but decided on Dundee University for her Masters because she now lives in Laurencekirk, midway between the two cities and she was keen to try a different campus.
“A lot of it was e-learning and I didn’t have to go to Dundee at all during the first year. I was logging on at home and studying alongside people in Bermuda and India and joining in online debates with them,” she said. “I’d recommend Dundee University to anyone, but the individual has to be focused, want to do it and have the self-confidence to believe that you can do it.’’
“The course is delivered in 12 week modules which require 300 hours of studying. If you are working full-time as well you don’t have much time left over and you have to be organised. Looking back I know it took over my life, I had to make sacrifices and I didn’t see much of my friends. I had to take about six weeks away from studying at one point when I had a bad head injury and couldn’t concentrate but I made it and it was all worth it.”
Mrs Tayler, herself a chartered member of the Institute of Management and a BA in management, feels that Hawkhill is already benefitting from Kristin’s studies as the theories she learned about are gradually put into practice.
Now 28, Kristin has an unbroken work record at Hawkhill House since she started there at 17 when she was a student.
“At that time I had a well-paid part time job to help me out financially. Then I was sent to my first nursing placement at Aboyne Hospital and shown the four ladies I was expected to get out of bed, wash and dress each day and I realised I didn’t know how to do it. All my grandparents were dead so I didn’t have any experience of dealing with elderly people,” she explained. “So I decided to look for work in a nursing home. When I looked through the Yellow Pages, the Hawkhill House advertisement appealed to me and I was employed.”
Kristin’s been there in one job or another ever since. Even when she was working full-time as a staff nurse at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in the high-dependency and plastic surgery wards, and as a bank nurse, she continued part time at Hawkhill, often working many hours in a week but never had a day’s illness.
“Coming to Hawkhill was the best thing I’ve ever done. I love my job and it is good I can combine studying and working. I’d only been matron for a few weeks when I asked Mrs Tayler about doing my masters degree and she was very supportive.”
Kristin has plans for the time she won’t be studying – she hopes to travel, to spend more time in the gym and plan for her PhD.