A nursing student from Sutton has been nominated for a prestigious award for giving a suicidal teenager the strength to carry on through her mental illness.

Louise Barrett was put forward for the Yakult Patient's Choice category of the Nursing Standard Nurse Awards by Holly Jackson, who says the nurse saved her life. Louise is one of four finalists, out of 100 nominations, to be shortlisted by the judges.

The award enables members of the public to thank a nurse who has made a real difference to their or a loved one's healthcare. After a public vote, the winner will be announced at a ceremony at The Savoy in London on May 1.

‘Louise has been a consistent rock for me when I'm in some of the scariest and lowest times of my life,’ says Holly. ‘My relationship with my nurse has been one of the most important I have had.’

She was just 15 when she first met Louise in 2009, when the nurse was an 18-year-old student. She was at a very low point and had been admitted to the children’s ward at Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford after a suicide attempt.

She was not medically unwell and found it distressing being on the ward. Being the nursing student, Louise was tasked to 'occupy her' quite often.

‘Every morning she would come in with a smile on her face, a smile that was so warm and caring that it made me feel much better. She would sit and talk to me, help me speak up about what was going on inside my head and what help I needed.’

Calm presence

Before Holly had difficulty trying to express herself because of her autism, but the time Louise gave her and her patience helped her communicate with the people involved in her care

‘Louise was always there to help calm me at times when I was cutting myself and trying to take my life. I don't think I would have been able to get through my time in hospital without Louise supporting me through it. At the age of 18 she definitely had the head of a very experienced, caring nurse already.’

Because of her mental health, Holly has frequently attended A&E and each time Louise has been on shift she came to find her.

‘She talks and listens to how I am and what's happening,’ Holly says. ‘I was recently admitted and I hadn't seen her for a while and before I was even out of the paramedic stretcher she was by my side.

‘When I get scared, angry or upset she will come to calm me and try to help sort out whatever it is that's going on.’

Holly sees her as a role model and hopes one day to show the same ‘incredible’ maturity and kindness.

‘I cannot describe in words all the things she has done and continues to do for me. Despite her relatively young age she has many times given me the strength to carry on and not try to commit suicide again. She has given me the strength to want to live so I can be like her and help people. I want her to get this award so she knows just how wonderful she is and how much she's saved my life.’

Louise feels honoured to have been nominated by Holly. ‘Holly is a fantastic young woman. She gave me confidence in my work. I am very excited about her future.

‘But I am also excited that this highlights the lifelong impact that nursing students can make when we take time and use our human and personalised approach to care and show students the difference they can make to clients’ lives.

'It is an exciting time for them to use skills and acquired knowledge to build relationships, especially within mental health care. We need to make time to talk a priority in mental health.’

University of Surrey Professional Qualification Lead Dr Pat Colliety said: ‘We are all delighted that Louise has been nominated for this award as we have seen her develop as a nurse while she was a student here. It is particularly pleasing that she has chosen to continue to develop her career here, training to be a health visitor.

‘With the emphasis in the NHS and our programmes on caring and compassion at all levels of care, to see how Louise has managed to bring those values to life is a testament to her.’

Voting is open from April 1 to 29. Vote online, by text or telephone.

Louise BarrettTo vote for Louise

Call 0845 6530195* and select A

Text NURSE followed by a space and the letter A to 81025 **

Vote online at www.nurseawards.co.uk/740

*Call costs vary according to the caller’s network
** Texts are charged at normal network rates

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