I’m delighted to be graduating with the Victoria Infirmary Glasgow Nurses League Prize for Best Student in Practice, and as a runner up for the academic achievement award. I feel very honoured. I’m already working as Community Learning Disability Nurse in South Lanarkshire and I’m happy to be part of such a great team. My programme has prepared me well, and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn in my new role.
I had so many amazing opportunities while studying at GCU and a highlight was travelling to Malawi as part of a team of BSC Nursing (Learning Disabilities) students, working alongside staff and students of the University of Malawi’s Kamuzu College of Nursing in clinics and schools and at the SOS Children’s Village, an international organisation caring for orphans, many of whom had learning disabilities.
We did everything from carrying out health checks and environmental assessments to delivering health education, as well as identifying people who needed additional support and working in rehabilitation clinics. I then stayed on in Malawi for another five weeks, working in rural areas and at a psychiatric hospital, where many people with learning disabilities in Malawi live because their needs are recognised as mental-health issues.
We were able to transform how people view learning disabilities. Understanding of learning disabilities in Malawi is extremely different. We experienced many challenges but we were able to make a positive impact in often extreme conditions by raising awareness. Many people told us, for example, that they had no idea that they could interact and build therapeutic relationships with people who have learning disabilities. So, while we learned a lot, people were able to learn from us, too. We felt we had so much impact which will grow and influence practice.
We were the first group of BSC Nursing (Learning Disabilities) students to undertake an international placement as an accredited element of our programme and I was delighted to be shortlisted for a Student Nursing Times Student of the Year award in the learning disability category for the work I carried out in Malawi.
I had a wonderful experience there. It was amazing to use the skills we learned in the classroom on the frontline and, as we had underestimated how few resources there would be, we were challenged to get creative. It was hard work but incredibly rewarding.