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Scholarship can help ideas flourish

Scholarships from the Florence Nightingale Foundation are providing nurses with the financial means to put innovative ideas into practice. Nurses from all four countries of the UK can apply for leadership, travel and research scholarships to support their career development and help improve patient care.

Lack of funds can sometimes scupper bright ideas that could bring benefits to nursing practice, but Florence Nightingale Foundation scholarships are helping nurses overcome this obstacle.

‘In cash-constrained times, it’s unusual for there to be money available to help nurses and midwives develop their careers,’ says Florence Nightingale Foundation chief executive Elizabeth Robb.

Applications opened on March 1 for nurses and midwives from all four countries of the UK for three different kinds of awards, all of which have their own benefits.

Leadership award

This gives applicants the opportunity to craft their own bespoke programme, tailored to their needs, which ‘really doesn’t happen with any other funding organisation,’ says Professor Robb.

Research award

This provides up to £5,000 for course fees, enabling students to complete their studies. Professor Robb says: ‘It’s part of our commitment to build research capacity in the profession.’

Travel award

This award reflects Florence Nightingale’s status ‘as a truly global professional,’ says Professor Robb. ‘It’s a chance for UK nurses to learn from the best in the world.’

Applicants are encouraged to think creatively about where best practice might be happening. ‘Sometimes that’s on the other side of the world, but it might also be much closer to home,’ says Professor Robb.

Top tips for applying

Check that you meet the criteria for selection.

Follow the application process carefully.

Apply in good time, remembering that your employer must sanction your application.

Don’t forget to sign the form.

Val Freestone, clinical specialist dementia nurse at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge, is currently on her travel scholarship in Australia, exploring dementia care. ‘I found the application process easy, as I was supported by my colleagues,’ she says. ‘At interview, the panel made me feel welcome and at ease.’

Of her project, she says: ‘I have learned so much from the people I have met in Australia, who have all gone out of their way to help me. Meeting kindred spirits has been a real bonus, and has made me realise that there are a lot of passionate dementia advocates out there.’

When Sandra Blades began to develop a keen interest in palliative care six years ago, she could not have predicted it would take her to the other side of the world. But one of the foundation’s travel scholarships enabled her to investigate end of life care in Australia.

After qualifying as a nurse eight years ago, she began working at a care home in Hartlepool run by international healthcare group Bupa. Becoming co-ordinator of the gold standards framework, which provides training to those involved in end of life care, sparked her passion for this area of care, and she began a masters level degree.

At the suggestion of her manager, Ms Blades first applied to the Florence Nightingale Foundation for help with her course. She says: ‘As someone who worked in a care home in the private sector, not the NHS, I didn’t think the foundation would be interested.’

Encouraged by her success and the support she received for her studies, she then applied for a travel scholarship. This focused on investigating the ‘Good Death project’ in Melbourne, where Bupa is a leading nursing and care home provider.

‘It’s a chance for UK nurses to learn from the best in the world’

– Elizabeth Robb

Ms Blades has since fed back her findings to Bupa, both in the UK and Australia. She also sent her report to her local MP, Iain Wright, who was so impressed by her work that he forwarded it to health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

‘My view is that if nursing homes can be supported medically, then we can deliver care at the end of life that is on a par with hospice care,’ says Ms Blades. ‘Older people’s care can be a Cinderella service, but I hope my work helps to persuade people it is an exciting place to work, with great job satisfaction.’

A wish to find a platform to move to the next level inspired Karen Strickland to apply for a leadership scholarship. Although she only started in January this year, her expectations have already been surpassed.

‘The highlight so far has been getting together with other scholars,’ says Dr Strickland, who is associate head at Robert Gordon University’s school of nursing and midwifery in Aberdeen. ‘They are an amazingly talented group of leaders from the NHS and higher education. The openness and shared learning is fantastic and provides a great network.’

Her scholarship is sponsored by the Council of Deans of Health, and is targeted at emerging academic leaders who aspire to become dean of a health faculty. ‘There are four of us and I’m the only one in Scotland, so I’m enjoying the chance to find out how differently things are done elsewhere in the UK,’ says Dr Strickland.

From local research to global phenomenon

When Claire Whitehouse started a new role as a research nurse, she knew she needed to find a course to support her work, but funding was a challenge – until she found the Florence Nightingale Foundation scholarships. She has successfully applied for two awards.

‘The scholarships have changed my life, both as a person and in my work,’ she says. With her work published, she has spoken at events, including the foundation’s inaugural conference in 2011, and has been promoted twice.

In 2014, in her current role as lead nurse for research at James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Norfolk, she launched a social media campaign to introduce her team and their work to the local community.

What began as a local initiative with the hashtag #whywedoresearch has become a global phenomenon, reaching 20 countries and generating more than 45,000 tweets so far. Patients have joined in, sharing their own reasons for taking part in research projects.

‘Without the scholarships, I wouldn’t have had the guts to do it,’ says Ms Whitehouse. ‘It’s broken down barriers, giving people the chance to talk about research and understand they can take part.’

Tailored to individuals

Alongside core elements, such as the opportunity to improve political awareness, the course is individually tailored to meet the needs of each scholar. ‘Personal leadership profiling has been fascinating,’ says Dr Strickland. ‘I’ve gained new insights into myself and how others might see me as a leader. It has also confirmed the areas where I need to develop, so that I can become the leader I want to be and that my colleagues need me to be’.

Find out more at www.florence-nightingale-foundation.org.uk

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