Two nursing students from the University of Cumbria have made the shortlist for the prestigious Student Nursing Times Awards 2019.
Diana Heyes and Lucia Scull are up for ‘Student Nurse of the Year: Mental Health’ and ‘Most Inspirational Student Nurse of the Year’, respectively at this year’s awards.
Ms Heyes, originally from Salford, was nominated for achieving so much in the face of adversity.
In 2009, Ms Heyes escaped an abusive partner and evacuated her family of three children, two of whom have autism, to Morecambe from Salford.
For years, she looked after her children and it was only once her children had grown up that Diana found her true calling and became the first person in her family to go to university.
While studying learning disabilities nursing at the University of Cumbria, she set up an adult autism social group in Morecambe and organised a two day awareness event, which lead to her providing peer support to other nursing students and creating a learning disability nursing and autism society.
Aware that universities across the country were closing their learning disability nursing courses, Ms Heyes was keen to promote the profession further and did so by setting up a Makaton sign language choir, organised autism training for peers and with help from another student, Caitriona McPeake, designed hoodie to promote the course.
Ms Heyes said: “Leaving my abusive partner meant I could reinvent myself, as I no longer identified as being that person, that victim.
“Being shortlisted doesn’t really feel real, and I don’t think it’s really sunk in. I certainly don’t feel inspirational. I just do what I do because I enjoy it and I try to involve others in that enjoyment.
“Everyone needs to have a role model, and to think that I could be that for someone else makes me feel extremely proud, that I could inspire others to follow a similar path.”
In the future Ms Heyes aims to continue running her autism social group and develop it further by exploring post-diagnostic support.
“I’d love to work as a community learning disability nurse, as there is a real opportunity within the role to build up strong relationships between the people who need support and their family and carers.
“I’m quite active and vocal when it comes to disability equality and will continue to advocate for others who may need a voice. I’m quite sure also, that this will not the end of my studying journey, as I’m already thinking post-graduate study. I’ll also be taking a well-deserved holiday with my family and my gorgeous dog,” she said.