Resilient and determined: meet the ‘outstanding’ student learning disability nurse

Categories: School of Health and Society

A University of Salford nursing and social work student has received a prestigious award, after taking a year break from her studies due to personal issues.

Michelle Singh was recently awarded ‘Outstanding Student Nurse’ at the Greater Manchester Primary Care Awards. She received the award due to her inspiring and resilient attitude, overcoming significant obstacles in her personal life to succeed as a student nurse.

She currently studies BSc Learning Disabilities Nursing and Social Work (Integrated Practice) at the University of Salford. 

“I started the course because I wanted to help make a difference in a world that needs more understanding, support and thought for others.

“People with learning disabilities are amazing, creative, clever and smart people who are a joy to work with and support. I want to advocate and work towards change for those who face inequalities. I want the power to be given back to the people to navigate their lives, wants and wishes,” said Michelle.

The coronavirus pandemic hit during Michelle’s time at university, resulting in a lot of disruption to her studies and personal life. The mum of seven felt extremely worried; three of her children were born with a rare genetic lung condition, meaning they were extremely vulnerable. The overnight changes also impacted her children with autism, making daily life very difficult.

Her marriage of 10 years broke down, leaving her alone with the children whilst trying to complete university. She struggled to focus on her studies and relied on her mum for childcare whilst completing placement.

During this time, Michelle’s daughter attempted to take her life on several occasions; the family were distraught and on suicide watch. Her daughter also caught covid on one hospital admission, which spread to other family members including Michelle and her son who has lung disease.

The family were then involved in a major road accident, in which her car was written off. 

“We were very lucky to walk away from that, I was just at my wit’s end now. I felt I had to continue - people said just take time out but it's not as simple as that. I was now a single mum, with no furlough or financial package for students, I had to pay bills with no way of getting a job. I felt I didn’t have the luxury of taking time out and losing my student finance,” said Michelle.

She returned to placement, conscious of the time she’d had off due to previous issues. She became extremely unwell and was in so much pain she could not move or breathe. She attended hospital and discovered she had double pneumonia as well as fluid and a blood clot on her lungs.

“I was so sick, I started treatment for three months and had various tests. I was constantly worrying about my children and that I might not be here to look after them. I had so much time off due to everything I had to drop a year; I should’ve qualified in September 2022 and now it will be 2023.”

Michelle has decided to share her story in the hope of encouraging others who have faced difficulties during the pandemic, those who have had to defer their studies or who feel they will never get through life’s obstacles.

“Talk to your tutors, family and friends. People care, do not keep your troubles to yourself and suffer alone. I hope my story will encourage others who may be facing difficulties now; that we can achieve our hopes and aspirations, even when it seems impossible.

“It was such a joy when I returned to placement, working with people with learning disabilities was amazing, helping to support them with social and medical needs, using knowledge I have learnt from the programme. I absolutely loved it; my passion is back,” she said.

Upon completion of her first placement back, Michelle was nominated for the ‘Outstanding Student Nurse Award’. The nomination read: “Michelle has been an outstanding learning disabilities student nurse. Although Michelle had to take some time out of her studies due to personal issues during the pandemic, she remains a very enthusiastic student who always champions the need for quality care for patients with learning disabilities (LD), ensuring their health needs are met.

“She considers the practice and how best the whole team can support the LD population. She has a good understanding of the inequalities for this group and the need to engage. Her communication with patients is fantastic and she was able to relate and get them to discuss issues with her”.

Michelle was particularly commended for her focus on inequalities.

Sarah Kennedy, Lecturer in Learning Disabilities Nursing at the University of Salford, said: “We are incredibly proud of Michelle’s resilience and commitment over the past year. She will make an outstanding Learning Disabilities nurse and social worker. Her commitment to fighting injustice and inequality, advocating for people with learning disabilities and helping educate others about the needs of people with learning disabilities is second to none.”

To find out more information about the course Michelle is studying, visit: BSc (Hons) Learning Disabilities Nursing and Social Work (Integrated Practice).

Michelle Singh at Awards

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