Posted Wednesday 1 June 2022
An undergraduate from Kingston University has been heralded as the best learning disabilities student nurse in the past year at the Student Nursing Times Awards.
Third-year student Jessica Ball carried off the accolade recognising her work improving outcomes for people with learning disabilities during a glittering awards ceremony at London's Grosvenor House Hotel. The coveted prize celebrates the unique nature of learning disabilities nursing and is given to the student who demonstrates the interpersonal skills required to help individuals maximise their independence, encourages them to participate in society and respects their right to self-determination.
Reacting to her success, Jessica said words couldn't adequately describe how honoured she felt. "Having all my hard work recognised fills me with so much pride," she said. "I really have to thank Kingston University and my lecturers for pushing to me to be the best person I can be."
Jessica latest triumph follows on from being named Student Nurse of the Year at Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust's annual Mary Seacole conference in November and cements her place as one of the brightest up-and-coming learning disabilities nurses in the country.
The 27 year old from Horsham, West Sussex, has taken a leading role in improving outcomes for people with learning disabilities throughout her studies, heading the University's Nursing Society and using her work placements to further develop her natural aptitude for delivering high quality patient care.
Her accomplishments include producing a learning disabilities information booklet for use as a quick reference guide for healthcare professionals in hospitals across Surrey and establishing several outreach opportunities. They include showcasing how learning disabilities nursing can improve health outcomes for people using accident and emergency services.
Jessica, who discovered her passion for helping people with learning disabilities during an equine management diploma where she saw the benefits of equine assisted therapy, was the first student nurse to go on a placement run jointly by Surrey and Borders Partnership Learning Disability Acute Liaison Team and the Safeguarding Service for Epsom and St Helier's Hospital in Surrey. Alongside her studies, she also supports two individuals with learning disabilities, one who attends Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee School in Horsham, where she used to work with pupils aged between three and 19, and another at Chailey Heritage School in Lewes, East Sussex.
Jessica is following in the footsteps of her parents, Alison and Christopher, who are Kingston graduates and both studied nursing some 35 years ago. All three have been taught by Associate Professor Trish Griffin, professional lead for Kingston University's learning disabilities nursing programme, who joined them at the ceremony to applaud Jessica's award success.
“To be a part of Jess’ journey, as I was a part of her parents, is an honour. Her passion is paramount and exactly what the profession needs. I look forward to seeing Jess flourish and become a change maker for learning disability nursing,” Professor Griffin said.
Her parents credit Jessica's personality and selflessness for her achievements. Their daughter had always been a firm believer in treating people as individuals, Mrs Ball said. "Jessica really lives the values of nursing and wanting to help people with different needs," her father, Christopher Ball, added.
The awards are in their eleventh year and shine a light on the brightest rising stars in the nursing community. Speaking after the ceremony, Head of Nursing Professor Claire Thurgate said Jessica's triumph highlighted the talent at Kingston University, which is rated top in London for nursing and midwifery in the Guardian newspaper's league tables.
"This award also demonstrates the passion and expertise of our academics in nurturing our students' development in their journey to become qualified nurses. The School has a tradition of supporting high quality teaching and learning in this area and it is an honour for this work to be recognised through Jessica's achievement," Professor Thurgate said.
The University was a finalist in four other categories at this year's Student Nursing Times Awards, with Jessica also shortlisted in the Most Inspirational Student Nurse of the Year category.