Northampton University student, Lauretta Ofulue, was one of this year’s Student Nursing Times Award winners who were revealed today (October 27) during an online virtual awards ceremony.
The ceremony saw winners announced across 21 categories. Lauretta Ofulue won Student Nurse of the Year in the learning disabilities category.
Lauretta applied for a disability nursing course at Northampton University after she was inspired by the care her son, Otito, received when he was ill in hospital.
Otito was just four-years-old when he died in February 2017 after spending a year in Great Ormond Street Hospital. He suffered with severe autism and was non-verbal so it was very difficult for hospital staff to know when he was in pain.
Lauretta, who worked as an economist at the time, was so grateful for one of the nurses who helped Otito “be a boy again”.
She said: “All the nurses were fantastic and we met a learning disability nurse there who was able to assess the pain Otito was in and he was able to be a boy again and play around the ward. If we did not have that special nurse he would have been in pain most of the time and that would have been horrendous.
“While I was at GOSH I set up a website to support those who have children in hospital.
“When I left, that is what I wanted to do. I was doing it in hospital and I wanted to do it professionally but I knew I didn’t have the skills. I wanted to be able to support families who have children who have complex needs.”
Lauretta started her learning disability nursing course at the University of Northampton a few months after Otito passed away.
She said: “I came onto the course even though I was grieving. It was a good way to carry on giving back.
“The university helped me to see the bigger picture and showed me I could support a diverse range of people of different cultures and even ages and that I could bring in my experience. My experience isn’t a barrier for me.”
Since starting the course in 2017, Lauretta became an advocate for her course, supporting other mature students and supporting the university. The sheer impact of her work led to her being nominated in February for the disability nursing student nurse of the year at the Student Nursing Times awards 2020.On being nominated, Lauretta said: “Truth be told, it took me by surprise that I was nominated. Someone somewhere must have nominated me because of all the things I do. I was just carrying on doing what I knew how to do. I feel so humbled to be nominated.”
Lauretta felt that the University of Northampton “took a big risk” on her and that, if she won the award, it would be a full credit to the university and her peers.
She added: “I was completely honest with them in the interview. I was able to take that change and University of Northampton has been supportive psychological and emotional, which is the reason why I was able to support my classmates.
“My experience could have gotten the better of me, but I am now coming out the other side smiling. It could have gone very wrong.”
The Student Nursing Times awards were initially going to be announced on April 24 this year but they had been unavoidably delayed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Other award categories included educator of the year, placement of the year and student of the year across the four nursing specialities.
The chief nursing officer for England, Ruth May, also gave a speech that praised the award finalists and thanked students for their efforts in tackling the first wave of COVID-19.