Local learning disability nurse receives prestigious Queen’s Nurse title

A learning disability nurse from West Sussex has been given the prestigious title of Queen’s Nurse, which recognises her contribution to nursing over the past 29 years and welcomes her into an elite group of nurses across the country.

The Queen’s Nurses programme recognises nurses who have demonstrated a high level of commitment to patient care and nursing practice throughout their career. Nurses apply on their own behalf to be a Queen’s Nurse and are required to have at least five years’ experience of working in community services.

Gill Hurren currently works in Bognor Regis as a Lead Community Learning Disability Nurse for Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, which provides specialist mental health and learning disabilities services for all ages in Sussex, and for children and young people in Hampshire. In her role she works closely with colleagues from the local authority and other professionals.

Gill first qualified as a nurse in 1990 and since then has never regretted her career choice: “I stumbled into learning disability nursing by accident. Originally I was going to be an occupational therapist but then swapped to nursing when I found out about it. 

“I initially worked in a day service in Chichester and I knew straight away that I wanted to work with people with a learning disability and make a difference to improve the quality of their lives.

“The best thing about learning disability nursing is the definitely the people! It’s a privilege to work with people with a learning disability, many of whom face adversity and barriers on a daily basis. No two days or pieces of work are ever the same - there is a lot of variety and there is always a challenge, which I love.”

The Queen’s Nurses are the national network for the Queen’s Nursing Institute, which supports nurses in their careers in various ways, including by offering nurses educational grants, support to help them develop their own leadership skills and by connecting them with a supportive network of other nurses across the country. The institute also works to influence government policies and raise awareness of the importance of financial investment in community nursing.

When speaking about the Queen’s Nurses programme and how the application process works, Gill said: “I first found out about the Queen’s Nurses programme through a colleague about four years ago. She said that we should apply for it. I had never met a Queen’s Nurse before, especially not a learning disability nurse, so I didn’t know whether I would be successful or not.

“There is a quite a bit of work involved to apply and at the time, I was so busy I just couldn’t see how I would find the time. But this year I decided it was the right time to just go for it.

“When I found out I had been successful I was shocked – there was such a big gap between applying and finding out that I had put it to the back of my mind and forgotten all about it, so it came as a huge surprise! 

“It means so much to me to receive this recognition for my work especially this year which marks 100 years of Learning Disability Nursing, so it’s extra special for me!”

The first learning disability nurses were introduced in 1919, and a century on, there are now believed to be over 3,500 learning disability nurses working across the country in their local communities, hospitals and in supported living accommodation, delivering care to people of all ages who have a learning disability and in some cases other mental health or physical health conditions too.

“I am thrilled to be able to say I am a Queen’s Nurse. It’s such a prestigious award and I am hoping it will encourage other learning disability nurse colleagues to apply too and get the recognition they deserve within the nursing profession. We make up a very small proportion of the workforce but it’s really important that we don’t get forgotten about.”

Dr Crystal Oldman CBE, Chief Executive of the QNI said: “On behalf of the QNI I would like to congratulate Gill Hurren and welcome her as a Queen’s Nurse.

“Queen’s Nurses serve as leaders and role models in community nursing, delivering high quality health care across the country. The application and assessment process to become a Queen’s Nurse is rigorous and requires clear commitment to improving care for patients, their families and carers.

“We look forward to working with Gill Hurren and all other new Queen’s Nurses who have received the title this year.”

To find out more about the Queen’s Nursing Institute and the Queen’s Nurse Award, go to www.qni.org.uk.