Online Mentoring Scheme to support pupils’ healthcare studies

Published: 6 November 2008

A new scheme aimed at helping senior school pupils prepare for healthcare studies at university is being launched.

A new scheme aimed at helping senior school pupils prepare for healthcare studies at college or university is launched this week (Friday 7 November).

The ‘WHAN Online Mentoring Scheme’ links up pupils with students already studying on the courses they are interested in applying for. Mentoring is organised through a safe and secure dedicated website and monitored by project staff.

WHAN – the Working in Health Access Network – is a collaboration of 12 Universities and 13 Colleges across Scotland that has been running for five years with the aim of interesting school pupils in a career in healthcare.

The Online Mentoring scheme was successfully piloted last year as part of the work undertaken by the West of Scotland area of WHAN. The majority of mentors are students at the University of Glasgow. The University of Strathclyde and the University of the West of Scotland joined the scheme in 2008 – bringing the total of mentors and mentees to over 150.

The new Online Mentoring Scheme incorporates feedback from mentors and mentees in the pilot phase to maximise benefit of the scheme fit. It will be available to all WHAN areas across Scotland including the University of St. Andrews, which will operate the scheme with schools in Fife under the auspices of the Working in Health Access Network.

Feedback on the scheme is very positive. Douglas Baird, now studying medicine at the University of Aberdeen, was a pupil at Hermitage Academy in Helensburgh when he became involved with the pilot project.

“It gave me a huge insight into what medicine was like, what the interviews were like and what questions they might ask. I think that without my mentor I wouldn’t be studying medicine right now.”

WHAN targets schools where transfer to University or College is less than the national average and is particularly keen to involve pupils who would be the first in their family to go on to higher education. It covers a wide range of healthcare studies, including  ‘healthcare sciences’ as well as those which lead to specific qualifications such as nurse, physiotherapist, pharmacist, doctor, dentist or radiographer.

The scheme also helps those who are uncertain about their final target. Katherine McKenzie, was a pupil at Oban High School. Though she didn’t get the grades she needed for her original choice of courses, she says,

“I wanted to find out different ways to get into different medical fields. Talking about options with my mentor helped. She helped me figure out a new route.” Katherine is now studying Anatomical Sciences at the University of Dundee.

The scheme produces benefits for its mentors too. These are all volunteer senior students who are subject to training and to disclosure procedures before joining the scheme. Many say that they wished such a scheme had been around when they had been at school.

Sarah Downie is a nursing student at the University of the West of  Scotland.  The WHAN scheme had personal benefits for her too.

“I was unsure that I had enough experience to make a useful contribution but I found this wasn’t the case and that doing so was very rewarding. The skills required for student mentorship were a useful introduction to similar skills I may be required to use as a registered nursing practitioner.”

WHAN works with almost a hundred schools across Scotland. The Online Mentoring Scheme in the West will be offered to pupils in further schools (meeting WHAN criteria) in the west of Scotland and, it is hoped, the scheme will eventually cover subjects and courses beyond healthcare and the healthcare sciences. Should any WHAN category school have pupils interested in the scheme, the project will endeavour to identify mentors to assist them.

Nicola Newell, currently a sixth year pupil at Campbeltown Grammar School, took part in the pilot scheme when she was in fifth year. The scheme aims to offer to all its mentees what Nicola says she gained – “Brilliant Advice”.

Further information:

Martin Shannon, Media Relations Officer,
University of Glasgow Tel: 0141 330 8593

Dr. Alan Foster, University of Glasgow Medical School, 0141 330 8543, - for enquiries with regard to the WHAN Online Mentoring Scheme in the West of Scotland and for the Working in Health Access Network nationally

Fraser Keir, Scottish Recruitment and Access, University of St. Andrews, 01334 462278, - for enquiries with regard to WHAN Fife

WHAN website:

First published: 6 November 2008