Nurse plans 10-day solo trek to attend graduation ceremony

A nurse is to mark her graduation by walking almost 200 miles from her home in Wester Ross to Stirling for the ceremony.

Helen Davies said the idea started as “a bit of a joke” but after seven years of studying she feels the solo trek will be a special way to celebrate the milestone of becoming a doctor of nursing.

She will set off from her home near Poolewe on Monday and arrive on November 23 in time for the University of Stirling ceremony the following day, where she will receive a clinical doctorate.

Mrs Davies, an advanced nurse practitioner at Aultbea and Gairloch Medical Centre, is an experienced walker who has bagged almost all of Scotland’s Munros.

Helen Davies
Helen Davies is an advanced nurse practitioner (University of Stirling/PA)

She has planned carefully for the journey and will follow ancient routes through the mountains to keep herself protected from potential bad weather.

Mrs Davies said: “The idea began as a bit of a joke – at the start, the doctorate seemed like such a huge undertaking that I said to my classmates, if I ever manage to get through this I’m going to walk to my graduation – and it just stuck.

“Doing such a long journey in November has taken a lot of thinking about. The days are so short and there are a number of river crossings on the way, so I have had to take the planning seriously.

“I’m keeping low level, sneaking through the mountains, over the old passes. Highlanders used these paths for hundreds of years to drive their cattle down to Falkirk, but next to nobody uses them these days.

“I’ve done a lot of research to keep the weight of my kit down, as I’ll be camping for the first five days or so, and there’s a lot to carry.”

The clinical doctorate, delivered by the Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport at the university, is a practice-focused course aimed at nurses, midwives, paramedics and allied health professionals who can work full-time and study part-time.

It prepares students for leadership roles in the healthcare sector wherever they are in the world.

Mrs Davies will meet her husband on arrival in Stirling.

She said: “This will be my fourth degree but I’ve never actually attended a graduation ceremony before – this is my first one.

“I’m most looking forward to the thinking time. It is a challenge. It sounds airy-fairy, but I do think the solo trek will represent my journey through seven years of study.

“It will give the opportunity for a long unwind, and a chance to reflect on the fact I’ve actually done it and completed the course.

“My colleagues think I’m a bit crazy. But they know I’m taking it seriously. I’m really proud to have completed the doctorate – now I just need to complete this final challenge.”

Mrs Davies’s supervisor at the university, Professor Karen Watchman, said it has been a “privilege” working alongside her.

She said: “She is showing the same determination in completing this walk as she did throughout her studies.

“We are all proud of her achievements and this is an amazing, if not slightly unusual, way to celebrate completion.

“I am looking forward to seeing Helen end her walk by stepping on to the graduation stage.”