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Nursing course helps students shine with ‘being brilliant’ approach

Students on an adult nursing course are encouraged to fulfil their potential by adopting a ‘being brilliant’ attitude that also brings out the best in others

Students on an adult nursing course are encouraged to fulfil their potential by adopting a ‘being brilliant’ attitude that also brings out the best in others


Picture: iStock

For nursing students at Northampton University, ‘being brilliant’ is an essential part of their course.

‘We say why be an ordinary nurse when you can be a brilliant one,’ says lecturer Cindy O’Dell, who leads the adult nursing course.

‘But being brilliant isn’t about being academically outstanding,’ she adds. ‘It’s being the best possible version of yourself and having a positive “get up and go” attitude that also brings out the best in others.’

The university introduced the initiative in 2013 in the wake of the Francis Report into failings in care at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. ‘We realised then that our students needed a greater sense of resilience,’ says Ms O’Dell.

Guiding principles

A set of guiding principles underpins the approach, including going the extra mile, developing emotional intelligence and being able to bounce back when things don’t go to plan.

Despite initial scepticism from some, data shows it is working. ‘I can see that it makes a real difference to my students,’ says Ms O’Dell. ‘They find it a very useful tool, and we hope it continues to help them in the future.’

Workshops on resilience are held before students start their first placements and repeated again at different points in their second and third years. This encourages them to think about how to manage the demands of a nursing degree, alongside maintaining their own health and well-being.

Preparation includes practical tips, such as emphasising the importance of having breakfast before starting a placement, and free cereal bars and bottles of water are handed out.

Help on hand

‘You need to understand when and what you need to eat, and how not looking after yourself might affect your concentration and mood,’ says Ms O’Dell.

The initiative is part of a package that includes a personal academic tutor, a link tutor who supports students through their practice placements, and staff who are on hand to help students through any difficult circumstances, such as financial problems.

‘As a team, we know our students individually and they become part of the family,’ says Ms O’Dell. ‘We have strong support mechanisms in place, so if anyone needs extra help we make sure they get it.’

Gail Purves worked as a dental nurse for 11 years before enrolling on the course last October. She says it provides an ideal mix of in-depth academic learning and interesting practice placements.

‘The support network here is incredible,’ she says. ‘The being brilliant campaign is really important as it encourages us all to go the extra mile for our patients, our colleagues and ourselves. Have that smile when you come to work, keep motivated and remember to look after yourself too.’


Lynne Pearce is a freelance health journalist 

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