Inspirational nursing students shortlisted for national awards

  • Date

    Tue 20 Feb 24

Student Nursing Times Award nominees

Three University of Essex students have been shortlisted for this year’s Student Nursing Times Awards.

The Student Nursing Times Awards bring together the nursing and midwifery community to celebrate hard-working students as well as lecturers, universities and placement providers who support them. Judges for each category include education leaders and previous winners.

This year’s winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony held on 24 April at the JW Marriott Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane.

Shortlisted for Student Nurse or Midwife of the Year: Clinical Research Award

Rae Spencer is a third year BSc Adult Nursing student, who said she’s honoured and grateful to be shortlisted in the clinical research category.

She said: "Being shortlisted is an immense honour for me, and I am truly grateful for it. Being academic has not always came naturally to me and after underachieving at GCSE I had given up on education.

"Years later, after an injury, I decided to go back into education to complete a degree in Sport and Exercise Science, during this time I  was diagnosed with dyslexia and ADHD. Attending university was transformational for me, and I would never have believed I could have finished with a first-class degree, but I did. It was during this time I found my passion for research. I knew I wanted to be more  involved in health research, so I completed a nursing degree, which allowed me to combine my passion for research with clinical practice. Being shortlisted for a Student Nursing Times Award has filled me with a great sense of pride and motivation to continue my journey towards becoming a successful nurse and clinical researcher."
Her passion for clinical research has been further developed by her course. She said: "I particularly enjoyed the freedom and independence that allowed me to explore my interest in clinical research nursing. I was proactive in seeking out opportunities and also created some of my own. Highlights would be volunteering as a Research Ambassador with Healthwatch Essex and attending the Royal College of Nursing International Research conference in Manchester."

She added: "As part of my current placement, I have been working with the community stroke team to assist in facilitating Early Supported Discharge (ESD). This experience has further emphasised the significance of person-centred care and how patients can benefit greatly when provided with the necessary support in the comfort of their own homes. I have also visited the local Research and Development team to find out about current research being carried out with stroke patients including the OPTIMAS Trial and TICH-3. I am excited to learn more and hopefully inspire more nurses to get involved in clinical research." 

Shortlisted for Student Nurse of the Year: Adult Award 

Emma Bird is a third year BSc Adult Nursing student. She said a nursing degree can be incredibly challenging and she is grateful her dedication and commitment has not gone unnoticed.

“Receiving the news has given me that extra bit of spark for my degree and I want to do well, not only for myself, but the patients I care for, the colleagues I work with, and the University I attend.”

She appreciates the mixed structure of her course which allows her to use her theoretical skills in real life situations. Placements help her to decide what her future journey as a nurse could be while meeting new friends who offer important guidance.

Emma is currently enjoying a placement within a hospice. She admits it sounded dauting at first, but she has found it incredibly rewarding.

“The team I’m working alongside has shown me that our patients are at the hospice for their physical, emotional and spiritual needs; in which we aim to bring comfort and relief to all those who need it. Moreover, I have learnt that a hospice is not just a place people go to during the last days of their life; it’s a place for symptom control and respite.

“Patients enjoy laughter, regardless of which stage of their life they are currently facing, and I enjoy laughing with the patients, while also caring for their needs and addressing any concerns relating to their health. One patient said to me: ‘My prognosis isn’t ideal, but I wish I could see you graduate, because you’re doing an amazing job and I know you will be a fantastic nurse’. This comment will stick with me for a very long time.”

Shortlisted for Outstanding Contribution to Student Affairs Award

Sunny Atkinson is in the final year of her mental health nursing degree and is shortlisted in the Outstanding Contribution to Student Affairs category. During her time as a student she has taken on a huge number of regional and national roles including as a RePAIR Student Ambassador – East of England, a Nursing Times Student Editor, a Council of Deans of Health 150 Student Leadership participant, a Unison Student Leadership Program participant and as a member of the Elsevier Student Advisory Board.

She said: “Being shortlisted is a tremendous honour for me. It indicates that my efforts and involvement in various student-related activities and initiatives have been recognised as significant and impactful within the nursing community. This acknowledgement motivates me to continue supporting and enhancing the student experience in nursing education.

“What I've enjoyed most about my mental health nursing course is the opportunity to integrate theory with clinical experience. It's been gratifying to apply the knowledge I've gained in the classroom to real-life situations and patient interactions. One aspect that stands out is the focus on understanding the individual's unique circumstances and needs rather than relying solely on assumptions or generalised knowledge about environmental or cultural factors. This approach has allowed me to develop a deeper understanding of the complexities of mental health care. It has strengthened my ability to provide support and treatment to those in need.“

This year, Sunny has been completing placements in both the NHS and private settings. This experience has made her think about how support for student nurses could be improved in all settings.

She said: “Throughout these placements, I've had the opportunity to observe and reflect on the support systems for student nurses. While both sectors have their strengths, I've identified areas where additional support and resources could enhance the experience for student nurses. This includes initiatives to foster a more supportive learning environment, such as mentorship programs, regular debriefing sessions, and access to educational resources tailored to the specific challenges faced by students in clinical practice.

"Overall, my placement experience has been incredibly enriching, providing me with a holistic perspective on nursing practice and valuable insights into how to better support the next generation of student nurses on their journey.“