University of Stirling and NHS Forth Valley triumph at UK student nursing awards

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Catherine Watson, student nurse
Student Catherine Watson (centre) receives her award from Mark Coningsby (award presenter, left) and Steve Ford (Editor, Nursing Times, right).

The University of Stirling and NHS Forth Valley have scooped two awards at the prestigious Student Nursing Times Awards – recognising the success of their long-standing partnership in teaching and educating the next generation of nurses.

The awards – which celebrate student nurses and course providers across the UK – recognised fourth year Stirling student Catherine Watson as Student Nurse of the Year (Mental Health) and NHS Forth Valley’s Forensic Community Mental Health Team as Student Placement of the Year (Community).

In addition, the University was shortlisted in the Teaching Innovation of the Year category for its suicide prevention education for nursing students, while Strathcarron Hospice – where Stirling students also complete placements – was nominated for Student Placement of the Year (Hospital).

Catherine Watson: Student Nurse of the Year (Mental Health)

Undergraduate Catherine – inspired by her mother, a nurse for more than 30 years – undertook placements throughout the region, including at Falkirk Community Hospital, Bellsdyke Hospital and Forth Valley Royal Hospital. During her course, she has given public talks, attended events, and participated in a televised interview with presenter Gail Porter, as part of the Scottish Association for Mental Health’s (SAMH) See Me campaign.

The award recognises that Catherine demonstrates several important qualities, including acting as a role model for student nurses; interpersonal and communication skills with service users and their families; promoting and enabling social inclusion; and working with compassion and empathy.

Reflecting on her award, Catherine said: “From the moment they called my name, I have been up on a cloud of immense joy, disbelief, and gratitude.

“I am so incredibly thankful to all the people I’ve had the honour of working with, especially the mental health nursing team at the University of Stirling.”

Dr Gwenne McIntosh, Deputy Head of Health Sciences at the University, said: “I send my warmest congratulations to Catherine on her well-deserved recognition at the Student Nursing Times Awards.

“Catherine has demonstrated a passion for providing the best care and support she can to all those in her care. She is creative, expressive and relates well to others – and she has been able to bring her interest in art, self-expression, and pet therapy into her clinical work. One of Catherine’s key strengths is promoting an inclusive approach to all that she does, aiming to reduce isolation to support recovery – this is incredibly important and effective in mental health practice.

“This award also reflects the outstanding support Catherine has received from colleagues here at Stirling and at NHS Forth Valley – and we’re all incredibly proud of her success.”

NHS Forth Valley pick up their award for Student Placement of the Year (Community)

Sheila Brown (Forensic Community Psychiatric Nurse, NHS Forth Valley, centre left), Katie Wilson (Team Lead for NHS Forth Valley’s Forensic Community Mental Health Service, centre right) receive their award from Debbie Hughes (award presenter, left) and Steve Ford (Editor, Nursing Times, right).

NHS Forth Valley’s Forensic Community Mental Health Service Team: Student Placement of the Year (Community)

The Forensic Community Mental Health Service Team received its award for the supportive, safe, and nurturing learning experience it offers students. Students described the learning environment as being inclusive and student-centred, providing them with the inspiration and motivation to practice nursing care that is compassionate and sensitive to the needs of the individual.

Katie Wilson, Team Leader of the Forensic Community Mental Health Service Team, NHS Forth Valley, said: “We are absolutely over the moon and still sitting on cloud nine. On behalf of the entire team, I would just like to say a massive thank to everyone who has supported us, and we are overjoyed to have brought home this award.

“NHS Forth Valley and the University of Stirling have done incredibly well to pick up two awards at this national event and we are so proud of this achievement. It’s also great to get recognition for the quality of care we provide to our patients and for the support we provide to student nurses to help nurture their chosen career paths.”

Margaret Conlon, Field Lead in Mental Health Nursing at the University, said: “We congratulate our colleagues at NHS Forth Valley, and those in our placement teams here at the University, on receiving the Student Placement of the Year (Community) award.

“Student nurses spend 50 per cent of their three-year programme on placement, therefore, they are very influential in shaping and nurturing the future mental health nursing workforce. At a time when mental health services have been struggling post pandemic, student exposure to pioneering teams, such as NHS Forth Valley’s Forensic Community Mental Health Service, is incredibly important. In addition, individuals who consider undertaking a programme of nursing are very much influenced not just by the scope of clinical experiences available but also by the quality of the student experience. 

“This award reflects the value of being a student mental health nurse at the University of Stirling and working within NHS Forth Valley.”

Student Nursing Times Awards

The annual awards – held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London – bring together almost 500 talented student nurses, education providers and mentors. They celebrate the very best in nursing education, including both educators and placement providers, as well as those students who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, clinical prowess and personal qualities that will make them brilliant nurses.

Steve Ford, Editor of Nursing Times, said: “Congratulations to all our winners at the Student Nursing Times Awards 2022. Once again, I was really impressed by the strength of entries that we received this year.

“Our awards recognise a group of outstanding students on their journey to entering the nursing profession, as well as all those who support them along the way, including lecturers, universities and healthcare providers.”