Queen’s University Belfast: Queen’s Student Wins Prestigious UK Nurse of the Year

Third-year mental health nursing student Mairead Ryan has been awarded Nursing Student of the year at the prestigious RCN Nursing Awards 2021.

These awards acknowledge the outstanding efforts, commitment and achievements made by the whole of the nursing community across the UK.

Mairead is a dedicated mental health campaigner and advocate who has led a number of initiatives to promote positive mental health, to increase awareness of addictions and offer insight about the affect mental illness has on families.

Outside of her studies in mental health nursing, Mairead undertakes a number of voluntary roles dedicated to improving mental health services in Northern Ireland and beyond. She is part of the “MyStoryYourStory” campaign, an innovative and evidence-based campaign that uses storytelling to empower people with lived experiences to use their story for personal and societal change. The campaign recently led to mental health becoming an integrated part of the curriculum for all schools across Northern Ireland.

She is an internationally established youth leader in mental health awareness, having represented Northern Ireland at the European Network of Young Advisors collaboration meeting in Barcelona, supporting the work of the European Network of Ombudspersons for Children and participating in a youth panel forum discussion for the United Nations’ 75th anniversary.

Speaking about her award, Mairead said: “I was so shocked to get a nomination. I couldn’t believe it when I found out that I won. I’m really passionate about my work because I want to create change and improve mental health provision – getting recognised for it is just a bonus and I’m grateful to Queen’s for putting me forward.”

Professor Donna Fitzsimons, Head of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Queen’s University Belfast, added: “We are delighted that Mairead has been awarded Student Nurse of the year at these prestigious awards. Mairead’s passion and commitment to improving mental health services in Northern Ireland and beyond, make her such a worthy winner.

“Two of the six finalists in the Nursing Student of the year were Queen’s students. This is testament to the calibre of students we are proud to welcome and educate each year – both Catherine McLaughlin and Mairead Ryan are inspirational nurses and I’ve no doubt that they will go on to become very successful professionals – I look forward to hearing about the impact they will have on patient care in the future.”

Dr Karen Galway added: “Mairead is an incredible individual. It seemed obvious to me that she deserved to be nominated because of the very real impact of her work to improve the lives of so many young people. I am delighted that impact has been recognised.”