Nursing and midwifery students honoured at graduation ceremony

Over 100 graduates celebrated their achievements at UHI’s nursing and midwifery graduation ceremony today (Thursday 17 November). The ceremony, which took place at the Free North Church in Inverness, was UHI’s first nursing and midwifery graduation following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mark Richards

The graduands were piped into the ceremony by local piper and UHI Gaelic officer, DJ MacIntyre, and congratulated by Professor Brian Williams, head of UHI’s School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences. The keynote address was given by the Scottish Government’s Associate Chief Nursing Officer, Mark Richards, who praised the students’ tenacity and dedication throughout the pandemic.  

The graduates, who were joined by over 280 guests, celebrated success in a range of qualifications including Higher National Certificates, Higher National Diplomas, degrees and postgraduate programmes.

UHI’s Student of the Year was named as Samuel Thomas (20) from Forres. Samuel started UHI’s BSc nursing programme in 2020, after completing an HNC in healthcare practice at UHI Moray the previous year. His lecturers described him as an outstanding student who demonstrated a strong work ethic and achieved high academic grades. 

During the ceremony, UHI presented honorary doctorates to Dr Clare Morrison and Professor David Lurie. Dr Morrison, Director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland, has had a diverse career in pharmacy, quality improvement and professional leadership. Her doctorate was awarded in recognition of her outstanding contribution to promoting and enhancing access to public services, specifically to digital health within the Highlands and nationally. 

Professor Lurie is an eminent scientist who specialised in medical physics. Before his retirement in 2021, he was a Chair of Biomedical Physics at the University of Aberdeen, where he is now an Emeritus Professor. His doctorate recognises his outstanding contribution to the development of research and scholarly activity across UHI.  

The ceremony was followed by a reception at the Centre for Health Science. 

Dr Nicola Carey, Head of Nursing and Midwifery, commented: “This is our first graduation which celebrates the achievements made during the COVID-19 pandemic. Our nursing and midwifery students played a vital role in supporting the work of the NHS over the last couple of years, on top of completing their academic studies. We are here today to show pride in what they have done and to wish them well as they take the next step in serving our remote, rural and island communities.”  

Samuel Thomas - Winner of the Nursing and Midwifery Student of the Year, UHI Student of the Year and Chancellor’s Nursing awards 

Samuel Thomas started UHI’s BSc nursing programme in 2020, after completing an HNC in healthcare practice at UHI Moray. His lecturers described him as an outstanding student who demonstrated a strong work ethic and who continually achieved high academic grades. 

Sam built a reputation for going above and beyond the requirements of his degree programme and clinical placements. He conducted a research study on male attitudes towards nursing as a profession, developed a signposting directory for advanced nurse practitioners and created a standardised care plan for catheter care.  

He has also been commended for his personal qualities, with staff and clinicians praising his kindness, resilience and friendly manner.  

In the background to these achievements, Sam has been coping with the death of his mother. Despite losing his mother when he was just 17, he has been determined to use his grief in a positive way by advocating for those requiring end of life care.  

Sam is graduating with distinction and has received funding to embark on a Master of Research degree with UHI’s department of rural health. He has also secured a role as a rural community staff nurse.  

Speaking about his awards, he said: “It is a real privilege to receive these awards in recognition of my work and study over the last few years. I thoroughly enjoyed my time on the BSc nursing programme at UHI, which has provided me with the knowledge, skills and determination to deliver high quality care as a registered nurse. The support I have received from both academic and support staff has been exceptional and has enabled me to engage with additional opportunities such as research and quality improvement. My experience of the superb teaching from my lecturers has inspired me to balance a clinical career, currently as a community staff nurse, with further postgraduate research examining nurse’s preparedness to deliver end-of-life care in rural communities.”  

Ronie Walters - UHI’s first PhD nursing and midwifery graduate 

Dr Ronie Walters (47) from Inverness is the first person to graduate with a PhD from UHI’s department of nursing and midwifery. 

She said: “I chose to undertake the PhD for a personal challenge. I love learning and, after finishing my masters in applied positive psychology, it was the next goal to aim for. Obtaining a PhD shows significant transferable skills - research, discipline, organisation, ability to multitask, data management and analysis. 

“My research looked at the impact of health literacy (how we make information and services accessible, understandable and actionable) in cardiac rehabilitation services. I was lucky to have two amazing supervisors (Professor Trish Gorely and Professor Stephen Leslie) who made the process an absolute pleasure.

“Now I have completed by PhD, I am enjoying a varied career working as a research fellow in the health psychology department at the University of Stirling, lecturing on social psychology with the Open University and providing freelance training, research consultancy and coaching services.”

It was a double celebration for the Walters family as Ronie’s husband Stephen also graduated in today’s ceremony after completing his BSc in mental health nursing with the department. 

Vasi Chrysanthakopoulou - International graduate 

Vasi Chrysanthakopoulou (42) moved from Greece to Buckie in 2015 to live with her boyfriend (now fiancé), Shaun Fleming. She is graduating with a BSc in mental health nursing with distinction. 

She said: “I have always been involved in health and social care and, in 2019, finished my HNC in social services through UHI Moray before starting my mental health nursing degree. Although it has not always been easy, I have never second-guessed or regretted my decision. 

“I would like to dedicate my working life to mental health services and I have secured a post as a staff nurse at a dementia ward with the local hospital. I would not have been able to do this without the help of some amazing lecturers at UHI and my personal academic tutor, Sam, especially deserves a medal and a halo!”