A STUDENT nurse from Redditch was narrowly beaten to being named Outstanding Student Nurse of the year in the 2014 scholarship awards run by Cavell Nurses’ Trust.

The national competition was held to find the best student nurses in the country.

Laura Fitzgerald, aged 29, from Redditch, is studying mental health nursing at Birmingham City University.

She said: "Entering the awards has given me a massive boost in confidence in my nursing skills. I am shocked but hugely flattered to be awarded runner up - there are so many amazing students on my course, let alone nationally.

"Going through the application and interview process made me reflect on what I love about nursing and where I'd like to work when I qualify. Working in a prison mental health team has always been my dream job and I now feel more focused than ever on achieving this.

"I would not have applied for this award without the encouragement of my personal tutor and the other mental health lecturers at my university. The support they've given me has been incredible. I have also benefited from the fantastic range of extra-curricular activities available at Birmingham City University."

Miss Fitgerald was working as a substance misuse worker in prison and realised that many of the people she was helping also had mental health problems but she didn’t have the skills or experience to support them as much as she wanted.

“There’s nothing like seeing people increase in confidence and reach their potential,£ she said. "It’s often the small things that make a really big difference and although the job is full of dilemmas about how best to care for people, I love every aspect of the job.

Some 29 student nurses and midwives from across the country competed for the honours in five different categories covering outstanding student nurse and midwife, leadership, community and academic achievement.

The rigorous selection process included in-depth interviews of the candidates by a judging panel comprising some of the foremost figures in nursing.

The  award winners will be presented with their prizes and certificates by HRH The Princess Royal at a ceremony at London’s Fishmonger’s Hall on March 19.

This is the third year for the scholarships, which are promoted through universities, with the aim of providing exceptional student nurses and midwives opportunities to further develop their professional practice and personal qualities.

The Princess Royal is president of the Trust’s Centenary Appeal which aims to raise £3 million by next year and double the number of people it supports.

The charity, which every year helps hundreds of nurses, midwives and healthcare assistants who have fallen on hard times, is promoting a series of fundraising events for the appeal.

For more details, see cavellnursestrust.org or call 01527 595999.