Former refugee wins top nursing award

A Rwandan refugee turned mental health nurse academic was among the winners of the Mary Seacole Leadership and Development Awards in London yesterday
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A mental health nurse leading a project to advance the care of asylum seekers and refugees in the UK was among the winners of the Mary Seacole Leadership and Development Awards in London yesterday.

Three new leadership awards, funded by Department of Health and NHS Employers and worth up to £12,500, recognised healthcare projects that improve the health outcomes of people from black and ethnic minority (BME) communities.

Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU) senior lecturer in mental health nursing Philomene Uwamaliya said she had been ‘overwhelmed with joy’ on learning she had secured a funding award.

First of its kind 

Ms Uwamaliya, who came to the UK as a refugee fleeing Rwanda in 2000, will use the money to develop an online resource hub for health professionals to access information on specialist services for refugees.

‘Every time I think about this project, I think it is the greatest opportunity,’ she said.

‘There is currently no single resource where students and practitioners can obtain information on services and support available for asylum seekers and refugees.’

Human rights approach

Ms Uwamaliya said the hub would help to enhance knowledge of pre and post-migration health issues and help advocate a human rights approach to care.

The hub, which will be hosted at LJMU school of nursing, will offer resources to help in health assessments and signpost to specialist services.

‘There are specific questions you need to ask to deliver the most effective care,’ said Ms Uwamaliya, explaining people can often make assumptions about refugees’ mental health trauma.

More compassion

‘There are lots of things to consider, and often medication makes people worse in terms of physical health.’

She said watching the Calais ‘jungle’ be dismantled recently was heartbreaking.

‘I have seen these things and know what these people are going through – we need to teach and help people to be more compassionate.’

Continuing legacy

University of Nottingham research and teaching associate in mental health Ada Hui also won a leadership award for work exploring the lived experience of BME patients within a high secure hospital.

University of Greenwich senior lecturer Deborah Isaac was awarded funding for her project exploring British BME mental health nurses' experiences of their career trajectory in the NHS.

RCN chief executive Janet Davies said: ‘Mary Seacole continues to be an inspiration, and the achievements of these award winners are a worthy continuation of her ongoing legacy. 


‘These projects will have a real impact on the lives of patients, and demonstrate what nurses can achieve by harnessing their ideas and expertise.’

Royal College of Midwives policy advisor and Mary Seacole Steering Group Committee Chair Janet Fyle said: ‘These projects are forward-thinking, culturally sensitive and patient-centred and will, once completed, improve the healthcare experience people from BME communities receive.’

The awards were first created in 1994 and honour Mary Seacole, who made a significant contribution to nursing in the 19th century.

Five nursing scholars who received funding for their projects last year were presented with certificates and a Mary Seacole scholar badge at the ceremony.

Leadership award holders from 2015
  • Hillingdon Hospitals NHS Trust community midwife team leader Aissa Edon addressed the psychological and psychosexual needs of women who had undergone female genital mutilation (FGM) in the UK.
  • Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust health visitor Joanne McEwan developed an app to assist health professionals protect and prevent girls from FGM.
Development award holders from 2015
  • Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust senior midwife Gergana Nikolova developed an online antenatal and postnatal programme to offer BME communities evidence-based information in their own language.
  • Northumbria University senior lecturer Joy Shao focused on exploring nurses’ lived experience in intercultural encounters and practice.
  • University of Manchester lecturer in nursing Judith Ormrod focused on increasing the competency of student nurses to provide culturally competent care to clients who had experienced or were at risk of experiencing FGM.