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Student’s RCN award for his work supporting people with learning disabilities

Andrew Turner saw service users’ anxiety about clinical procedures – and took action to reassure them

Andrew Turner saw service users’ anxiety about clinical procedures – and took action to reassure them


Award winner Andrew Turner. 

A learning disability nursing student was recognised at the RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Awards 2018.

Andrew Turner, a third-year preregistration nursing student at Queen’s University Belfast, took home the student award after being nominated by his practice education facilitator at Belfast Health and Social Care Trust.

Mr Turner was commended by the trust for the way he provides reassurance to service users ahead of surgical procedures. He helped one man with learning disabilities who had gum disease and was due to have a tooth removed, and a child who was scheduled to have an ear, nose and throat procedure.

Addressing individuals’ worries

‘It came to light there were no easy-to-read materials for service users explaining what might happen, and there was a shortage of resources for individuals with a learning disability.

‘I explained to staff that the individuals and their families were experiencing high levels of anxiety. I was given permission by the trust to develop a unique social story for the services users, taking pictures of the journey they would go through on the day and any staff they would meet.

‘I helped show them how a cannula might be used or blood pressure be taken, how to do deep breathing exercises to help normalise the treatments, and I explained what might happen on the day.’

Willingness to ‘go the extra mile’

Mr Turner, who has been offered a job in the acquired brain injury unit at the Belfast trust once he graduates, also helped organise a variety show for service users and their families during his first year of university.

‘As nursing students, we have to make the most of every opportunity and consider the importance of individualising care’

He said: ‘To be recognised for the work I have been doing means so much, because I love what I do.

'In learning disability, we may be one of the smallest fields, and it is often a necessity to have the loudest voice to make the needs of our services users heard.

‘We work with people whose behaviour could be seen as challenging. It’s not about viewing only their disability, but about their abilities and promoting those.

‘As nursing students, I feel we have to make the most of every opportunity and consider the importance of individualising care. I stand by the principle of treating everyone the way you would like to be treated.’

The awards panel said it recognised Mr Turner’s passion and commitment to person-centred care, exceptional communication skills, and his willingness to ‘go the extra mile’ to support service users.

Mr Turner was presented with the award last week at a ceremony outside Belfast.


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