Outstanding nursing student shortlisted for an RCNi Student of the Year award

University of Suffolk nursing student Fiona Fitch, from Great Barton, is only just approaching the end of her second year of her nursing degree, but is already making a huge difference to patients and the NHS – so much so that she has been nominated as nursing student of the year at the RCNi (a subsidiary of the Royal College of Nursing) Nurse Awards 2020.

Currently on placement at the West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, Fiona’s lifelong dream was to become a nurse, but she didn’t have the confidence to pursue it as a career once she left school.

Having raised her family and worked as a private secretary, a swimming teacher, and even a property developer, Fiona recently took the brave step to return to education as a mature student to “fill the gap” left in her life once her children had become less dependent on her.

Fiona said: “Overcoming the challenge of walking into university open days when I was old enough to be a parent of the students was very difficult. I am pleased to say that since that early experience I have not once looked back, and I cannot wait to qualify as an adult nurse.”

The COVID-19 pandemic hit in the middle of Fiona’s studies, but instead of waiting for the pandemic to pass Fiona decided to work as a nursing assistant at West Suffolk Hospital to help staff during the pandemic and learn more on the job.

“I am a positive person and have relished the challenge,” Fiona added. “I have used common sense and my training in infection prevention to minimise the risk of COVID-19 to me, my patients and my family as much as possible and have been well supported by West Suffolk with good supplies of PPE.

“I have also felt privileged to reassure patients when they are at their most anxious and vulnerable in hospital.”

Fiona was shortlisted and recognised by the RCNi Nurse Awards for her extensive research into how student nurses can contribute to improving the care of deteriorating patients. She is now delivering her findings to adult nursing students at her university.

Diane Last, clinical education lead at the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Fiona is engaged, patient-centred, kind, intelligent and I would be delighted if she looked after me in hospital!

“She uses her life experience to be considered and measured in her approach, and is keen to push forward developments that will improve care in any way. She’s a rising star, and we have been so proud to have her on our team at the beginning of her career. We all wish her the best of luck at the awards, but she is already a winner in our eyes.”

Donna Page, Senior Lecturer in Adult Health at the University of Suffolk, said: “We are thrilled that Fiona has been shortlisted for the RCNi award; she represents the best of nursing – commitment, passion and an enquiring mind which inspires her fellow students and lecturers alike.”

Teresa Budrey, RCN Eastern Regional Director, said: “We are delighted to see that Fiona’s fabulous contribution to the trust, patients and other students at her university is being recognised by this nomination.

“Students like Fiona who have continued to work on the frontline of the NHS during the COVID-19 pandemic show just how dedicated and vital this workforce is for patients and services. To carry out extensive research and deliver findings which will ultimately help patients, demonstrates the innovation and commitment students bring to their studies. We congratulate Fiona on her nomination and wish her all the best in the RCNi Awards.”

The RCNi virtual awards ceremony is due to take place later this year.

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