Rachel GittonsAn Edge Hill student described as an “excellent advocate for the learning disabilities profession” has won a hotly contested place on a national nursing awards shortlist.

Rachel Gittons, (21) from Stockport is in her final year at Edge Hill University’s learning disabilities nursing degree and has already secured her first job at a hospital in Greater Manchester.

She has just made it onto the shortlist of the student Nursing Times awards for Student Nurse of the Year: Learning Disabilities, and will compete against nine others from across the country at the awards evening at the end of April in London where the overall winner will be named.

Rachel said: “I feel utterly proud to be shortlisted and shocked about what I have achieved at Edge Hill as when I first started I had no idea what passion and force I had in me.

“Since I was a little girl I have always wanted to be a nurse and the reason I chose learning disability nursing was because I was involved in girlguiding and was a qualified rainbow leader. Young girls would come in with extra needs and my passion grew from there and seeing their potential grow.

I had definitely made the right choice coming to Edge Hill, from day one I felt comfortable and relaxed with fellow colleagues and lectures. My placement experience has been great, varied and enjoyable.”

Rachel has been involved in the national Learning Disabilities (LD) Champion campaign. As well as promoting LD Champions to schools and the wider community, she has also raised awareness of the specialism and placements to student nurses studying in other fields of nursing.

She has also presented at the Positive Choices conference about her role as Student Quality Ambassador and was the first student nurse to support lecturers in promoting learning disabilities nursing with her lecturers at Edge Hill open days.

Julie Toms-Ashcroft, Associate Head of Nurse Education, said: “It was clear on day one that Rachel had a passion and commitment for learning disabilities nursing. She exemplifies the qualities of a true learning disabilities nurse in that she strives to develop herself, and more importantly others, so that she and they can become knowledgeable and skilful supporters, carers and advocates for people with learning disabilities.”

Find out more about studying Learning Disability nursing at Edge Hill University here.