A student nurse has been honoured for her caring skills after impressing colleagues with the way she handled sensitive situations at both a small community hospital and a busy city emergency department.
A man with mental health issues who had completely neglected his personal appearance and hygiene wept tears of gratitude after Mhairi McDonald’s personal care helped him regain his self-respect.
On other occasion, she comforted a grieving husband and listened to his stories about married life as he said his final farewells to his wife who died suddenly just days before their wedding anniversary.
Now, after graduating from Edinburgh Napier with a Bachelor of Nursing degree yesterday, Mhairi, 24, has been named this year’s winner of the university’s Simon Pullin Award.
In her submission for the prize, Mhairi wrote sensitively about her experiences, which included placements at Belhaven Hospital in Dunbar and Edinburgh Royal Infirmary’s Emergency Department.
She said: “Compassion can be lots of small things, like a cup of Horlicks before bed, a hand to hold or an ear to listen. It involves picking up on unspoken concerns and recognising and responding appropriately.” Mhairi added: “Our patients may not always remember what we said and what we did, but they will remember how we made them feel.”
Staff who had mentored Mhairi on her hospital placements reinforced her written submission with praise for her kindness, concern, maturity and professionalism.
Mhairi told how she built a trusting relationship with an unkempt man whose personal hygiene standards plummeted during low spells. Her personal care and attention cleaned up his appearance and renewed his sense of independence.
She was also present when senior staff broke the devastating news to a man that medics had been unable to save his wife following an out-of-hospital cardiac arrest a week before their wedding anniversary. She arranged for him to hold his wife’s hand as treatment was withdrawn, and Mhairi later listened to his anecdotes chronicling their love story as he waited for other family members to arrive at the hospital.
Edinburgh Napier’s Simon Pullin Award, which comes with £250 in prize money, was established to recognise the human side of nursing and midwifery. It was created in memory of Senior Nurse Simon Pullin, who played a key role in the university’s Compassionate Care Programme up until his death from cancer in July 2011.
Mhairi, from Port Seton, East Lothian, said: “I am overwhelmed and incredibly grateful to be the 2019 recipient of the Simon Pullin Award.
“I am still in complete shock at having had the opportunity to be considered for such an incredible award, never mind winning, as I know that out of all the graduating midwives and nurses there are some incredible individuals.
“I feel lucky that I will get to continue to work in a career where compassionate care will be a defining aspect, and that I’ll have the continuous opportunity to be inspired by my patients.”
Dr Stephen Smith, a senior lecturer at the university and a nurse consultant in compassionate care with NHS Lothian, said: “The examples of what Mhairi learned from practice were powerful, and touching to read, and demonstrated a beautiful sensitivity and commitment to the delivery of compassionate care whatever the context.”
Emma Trotter, the university’s Field Lead in Adult Nursing, added: “The review panel valued the comprehensive and extremely positive feedback from mentors included within Mhairi’s portfolio. It highlighted an ability to provide compassionate care and demonstrate empathy while working to a highly professional standard.”
Mhairi has now taken up a job in the Acute Medical Unit at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.