Hannah Hillier is pursuing her dream job as a nurse caring for children thanks an education bursary from Wiltshire Community Foundation.
The 21-year-old works on the neonatal unit at Great Western Hospital in Swindon, and is in the final year of a degree course at the University of the West of England in Bristol, studying for a BA in Children’s Nursing.
She grew up in Trowbridge with her parents and two younger siblings, one of whom is in receipt of Disability Living Allowance and is cared for full-time by her mum.
When Hannah left St Laurence School in Bradford on Avon after her A-levels she couldn’t afford to get to and from placements, buy books or cover other expenses for her nursing degree - despite taking on the maximum student loan of £50,000.
“I would always have done my nursing training but I would have needed to take a gap year, maybe two, to have enough money behind me to complete the course,” she said.
She applied for an education bursary from the community foundation and was awarded £1,500 for each year of the three-year course, which she says has made a vital difference to her studies.
“The bursary has been incredible and when I think about it I get a bit emotional because it has been more help than I could ever explain,” she said. “It has just taken the pressure off and meant that I don’t need to work on top of being on a placement.
“I could be doing long hours, including at night or weekends, so the bursary has allowed me not to have to worry about paying for parking at the hospital or petrol. It has also paid for books for the course.”
Her placement in Swindon is the sixth placement of her course.
“I’m really enjoying it at GWH because I am part of the team, the only thing that is different is that I get more support than a normal member of staff and they always make sure that I am learning,” Hannah said. “Because I am a final year student they give me the independence to manage my own workload, which is really good.”
Hannah finds the intensive nature of caring for tiny, vulnerable babies is a good learning experience. “I’m looking after babies who are poorly, whether they are premature or have complications,” she said.
“It can be fraught sometimes but most of the time the babies that come to us aren’t extremely poorly so there is just a lot of managing their care and working with the mums and dads to establish routines like feeds.
“Most of the time it’s really calm because most of the babies are pre-term they sleep a lot.”
Her other placements included a stint at Julia’s House Children’s Hospice in Devizes: “I liked it there and I learned a lot. It’s really nice that the placements are varied, you learn different skills and it informs us when we decide where we want to apply to work.”
Hannah is the first in her family to go to university and is on course to earn a first in her degree. “My family have been brilliant, even though finances are more difficult compared to some families, they will do anything they can to help me and if I have had a challenging day they are always there to offer support,” she said.
“I am grateful for the help Wiltshire Community Foundation has given me. The bursary has really alleviated the pressure and allowed me to study and concentrate on what I want to do
“I haven’t had that stress or worry and it has helped me not spread myself too thinly and potentially get worse grades. I feel like the grades have reflected how well it has been helping.”
Wiltshire Community Foundation has awarded more than £1.6m in education bursaries since their launch in 2008.
Last year it awarded £305,000 in bursaries and vocational and education support grants to 125 beneficiaries. This year’s funding round, with grants of up to £1,600 a year, is now open for applications. Further information can be found at wiltshirecf.org.uk/grants-and-support/individuals