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Nursing student Grace selected for RCN Gabrielle Award

A photograph of OU nursing student Grace McAleer alongside the text "nursing student Grace selected for RCN Award" on a turquoise background.

OU nursing student Grace McAleer, a final year student on the Northern Ireland (NI) Adult Future Nurse Pre-Registration Nursing Degree Programme, has received The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Northern Ireland Gabrielle Award.

The Gabrielle Award, sponsored by Mary and Isabelle Durkan, gives pre-registration nursing students from select universities in NI the opportunity to explore an area of nursing or healthcare they are passionate about with a £500 bursary. 

To be considered, applicants must introduce their work, what they hope to achieve and how they believe the Gabrielle Award will help enhance their knowledge and patient care.

Grace, who has 10 years’ experience as a Senior Nursing Assistant at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, impressed the panel with her professional interest in Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). 

She said: “the population in NI is increasing in diversity and I believe there is limited knowledge of how prevalent this issue is, the impact on the girls and women concerned and the limited healthcare services available to meet their healthcare needs. Prior to any knowledge of this award, I had been in contact with Rohma Ullah, the National Lead for Training, Professional Development and Digital at The National FGM Centre, to enquire on how I could progress my knowledge in this area.” 

Rohma informed Grace about an upcoming conference that she might be interested in and pointed her towards several training opportunities. She even arranged clinical experience for Grace to attend provided she was willing and able to travel to London.

Grace included these findings in her application and learned that she had been successful in March 2022. The RCN NI Gabrielle Award has since helped Grace to fund two trips to London, where she has attended The Day of the Girl Child conference, received specialist FGM training and spent a day working alongside Rohma and colleagues at The National FGM Centre. Grace even visited The Sunflower Clinic, a specialist FGM clinic for pregnant and non-pregnant women.

This image is of Grace at the FGM Sunflower Clinic in London.

Grace (centre) at The Sunflower Clinic, a specialist FGM centre in London.

NI Staff Tutor Dr Una St Ledger said: “Grace is a truly inspirational OU nursing student. She has demonstrated Nursing and Midwifery Council values of care, compassion and concern for an underserved population in NI. Grace’s determination to do something about the gap in healthcare services for people living in NI impacted by FGM, by applying for the RCN NI Gabrielle Award, and a plan to follow through on her learning, demonstrates her leadership qualities, resourcefulness, and courage. She lives out the social justice and inclusion ethos of The Open University and of the Future Nurse Standards by striving to make an important difference in the lives of others. I look forward to proudly following Grace’s ongoing career development and achievements as a rising star in the nursing profession.”

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust added: “Grace has been a valued member of the Programme Treatment Unit team for 10 years now and we were delighted to have the opportunity to support Grace through her BSc Hons Nursing (Adult) degree through The Open University. Grace is a dedicated, compassionate, caring professional who places her patients and colleagues at the forefront. She is such an inspiring role model. Grace goes out of her way to support other students on The Open University programme, and we have watched her confidence grow over the last three years. She is an outstanding student nurse who emulates professional values. The Belfast Health and Social Care Trust are very proud of her achievements to date, and we have no doubt that Grace will continue to excel as a registered nurse. We look forward to supporting her in her future professional career.”

To find out more about nursing at The Open University, read about our Nursing and Healthcare courses.

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