Last month saw the return of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Nurse of the Year Awards.
Open to all UK nurses, midwives, health visitors, nursing students and nursing support workers, the awards highlight excellence within the nursing profession and celebrate the contribution that nursing staff make to the health and well-being of their patients.
The RCN Northern Ireland (NI) held their 2023 Nurse of the Year Awards ceremony in Belfast, whilst the RCN Scotland Nurse of the Year Awards took place in Edinburgh. Both nights were a huge success for Open University nursing students and alumni, with learners scooping awards at each of the two ceremonies.
In Belfast, Grace McAleer, a final year student on the NI Adult Future Nurse Pre-Registration Nursing Degree Programme and Senior Nursing Assistant at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, collected the Student Nurse of the Year Award. Grace was nominated for her commitment to addressing the gap in healthcare provision for people in Northern Ireland impacted by Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Grace has also been the recipient of the RCN NI Gabrielle Award, a £500 bursary that has helped her to develop her knowledge of FGM and improve the level of care she offers to her patients.
Upon receiving her award, Grace said: “I am so honoured as an Open University student and Belfast Trust employee to receive the Student Nurse of The Year Award, particularly considering the other great students nominated for the award. The award provides me with a platform to highlight the important but hidden issue of FGM that needs brought into the spotlight. I hope the award serves as a platform to raise awareness further and so that we can begin to develop the services that are needed to meet the population needs in Northern Ireland.”
Also proud of his achievement was Nathan Weir, an OU NI Pre-Registration Nursing Programme alumnus. Nathan, who was employed at the Southern Health and Social Care Trust as a Peer Support Worker before starting his OU journey, was awarded the Chief Nursing Officer Rising Star Award.
Nathan said: “The Open University is a fantastic University that provides flexible and accessible education to people from all walks of life. Without The Open University I would not have been able to achieve my Mental Health Nursing degree, and for that I am truly thankful. As a mature student with a busy family and work life, I was able to learn and study at my own pace with the fantastic support of The Open University tutors and easily accessible module materials. I am honoured to be part of the OU family and astonished to win The Royal College of Nursing: Chief Nursing Officer Rising Star Award 2023, just days after graduating."
Meanwhile in Scotland, OU Adult Nursing graduate Lois Gaffney was named Nursing Student of the Year 2022. Lois, who is now working as a Staff Nurse at Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick, Shetland, received her nomination as a student and was described by her practice assessor as an “inspirational role model”. Shortlisting for the RCN Scotland Nursing Student of the Year Award included recognition of Lois’ nomination for the Council of Deans Student Leadership Programme, a partnership between the Council of Deans of Health and the Burdett Trust for Nursing aimed at developing and promoting student leadership.
After receiving her award, Lois said: “I am absolutely ecstatic to have won the Nursing Student of the Year award from RCN Scotland! My career began 17 years ago in healthcare support work, and by expanding on my knowledge and experience through the Adult Nursing honour's degree with The Open University, my confidence in my own abilities has improved greatly.”
Susan Stewart, Director at The Open University in Scotland, said: “The Open University in Scotland has a proven track record of working alongside NHS Scotland boards and partners to enhance the skills and careers of healthcare staff, irrespective of educational and social background, pre and post-registration. I’m delighted for Lois, whose success exemplifies The Open University's mission of supporting our students to achieve their goals, whoever and wherever they are, and to open up new opportunities in their lives and work.”
Applauding Lois on her award win and on her commitment to a career in nursing, Colin Poolman, Director of the RCN Scotland, said: “Becoming a nurse takes years of study, hard work and dedication. Lois showed exceptional promise during her professional education and practice placements, attaining not only the clinical and academic competence required to become registered with the NMC, but also the recognition and admiration from her qualified colleagues. I wish her the best of luck as she embarks on her nursing career and expect great things to come”.