Southern Regional College lecturer Sara Gilpin was honoured with an ‘Award of Merit’ at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) annual congress meeting on Sunday 2nd June 2024 in Newport, South Wales. The annual congress kicked off on Sunday with Awards of Merit being presented to seven recipients from across the UK for exceptional service to the RCN.

Sara has been a lecturer at Southern Regional College since 2015 and her role includes acting as both a personal tutor and the course director for health and social care courses at the College. Namely the Level 4 Open University Certificate of Higher Education Healthcare Practice, hospital (SHSCT) and nursing home pathways, as well as the Level 5 Leadership in Health and Social Care.

Sara brings a wealth of experience to her role. Having originally qualified as a paediatric nurse in 2002, Sara has worked in multiple healthcare specialties including accident and emergency, special needs, infectious diseases and research with children and young people, both in Northern Ireland and London.

In the past year, Sara’s love for nursing has been pivotal in setting up the first RCN Prince of Wales Nursing Cadet Scheme in Northern Ireland; a scheme presently only available to students at Southern Regional College. This cadet scheme has allowed students from across all course disciplines to experience placement activities with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service (NIAS) and within the nursing profession.

Sara’s actions in setting up the cadet scheme in Northern Ireland led to her being nominated for the Award of Merit by Professor Dave Clarke, Head of the RCN Prince of Wales Nursing Cadet Scheme and supported by Robert Sowney, Senior Clinical Advisor Safety Committee NIAS, Rita Devlin, RCN NI Director and Ruth Thompson, Assistant Director Nursing Policy and Practice, RCN NI.

On winning the award, Sara commented:

“I’m overwhelmed and honoured to receive this award and it was such a proud moment to have it presented at the RCN Congress 2024, in Newport, Wales. I have loved every minute of working with the RCN Prince of Wales, Nursing Cadets and knowing that I have been an integral part of giving young people in Northern Ireland this opportunity. The Cadets have been wonderful, and I look forward to being able to continue to work on this programme.”

Lee Campbell, Interim Principal & CEO of Southern Regional College commented:

“Sara's Award of Merit is a fantastic acknowledgement of her many years of dedication and commitment to the Royal College of Nursing, the nursing profession and subsequently her role within Southern Regional College. Sara’s unwavering dedication, compassionate approach, and innovative teaching strategies are now inspiring generations of potential future nurses and healthcare workers, empowering them to become the healthcare leaders of tomorrow. Her recognition by the prestigious Royal College of Nursing is a testament to her exceptional contributions in nursing and education, and we are immensely proud to have her as a member of our College."