Gary Mitchell

Nursing doctor is ‘Top of the Class’!


Gary Mitchell, a PhD student from the School of Nursing and Midwifery has received the First Trust Bank Queen’s Student of the Year Award.

Graduating for the fourth time from Queen’s, Gary was chosen for his contribution to the University, the nursing profession and those with dementia.

The Award is presented by the Queen’s Graduates’ Association (QGA) with generous support from First Trust Bank and is one of the highlights of Graduation Week, recognising exceptional students for excellence, achievement or service either to the University or to the wider community.

Speaking about this year’s Award, Mark McKeown, Manager, First Trust Bank, said: “We are delighted to join with the University at such an important time of year for the presentation of this illustrious award.

“We have been supporting the Graduate and Student of the Year Awards since their inception in 1999. Our endorsement recognises and celebrates the achievements of all those Queen's students who make such an invaluable contribution to life in Northern Ireland and beyond. This year’s Student of the Year – Gary Mitchell – is an inspirational role model for all students and for those working in the nursing profession.”

Gary Mitchell is being recognised for his role in helping the caring professions understand dementia. Last September, the Northern Ireland Dementia Learning and Development Framework, which was co-authored by Gary, was launched by Health Minister Michelle O’Neill, the result of six months research during which he met 150 stakeholders including patients, carers and healthcare professionals.

He also developed the world’s first model to guide safe-staffing in care homes. The model has led to improvements in key performance indicators and to savings of over £1m for his employer, Four Seasons Health Care (FHSC).

During his PhD Gary led a voluntary 3-year programme in conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Society resulting in over 1,000 student nurses becoming ‘dementia friends’ and dementia awareness becoming a required element of 1st year nursing at Queen’s. He published 40 articles in healthcare periodicals, sat on the School Research Ethics Committee, was an integral part of the School’s SWAN initiative to advance gender equality, taught nursing undergraduates and mentored new PhD students.

Currently a Member of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) International scientific advisory panel, Gary recently won a RCN Foundation Marcie Mackie Travel Scholarship which will take him to Melbourne next year to carry out further research. Other honours include the Nursing Times Inspirational Nurse Leader award (September 2015) and the 2016/17 British Nurse of the Year.

In nominating him for this latest Award Joanna Strain, FHSC Head of Nursing UK, said: “Over the past year Gary has brought a great sense of community to our nurses, which has led to increases in recruitment and retention of staff.

“He also helped us to launch a Twitter platform and encouraged nurses to blog about their professional journey.” Joanna concluded: “Gary inspires, leads and showcases the work of his colleagues.”

Commenting on his latest achievement Gary said: “I am really excited – and truly humbled –to have been selected as the 2017 First Trust Bank Queen’s Student of the Year.  

“I am passionate about education and nursing and equally passionate about helping those with dementia and those who care for them professionally or voluntarily. Queen’s has equipped me with skills for enhancing the care people receive through nursing research and education.

“I’d like to pay special tribute to the School of Nursing and Midwifery who have been like a family for me over the last decade. They have tirelessly encouraged and mentored me in my academic journey. I dedicate this Award to their hard working and dedicated staff”.   

Fergal McFerran, President of the QGA, believes that the Award acknowledges all that is best about Queen’s. He said: “This year’s Student of the Year Award recipient recognises the impact of a gifted individual who is an exemplary PhD student and full-time nurse.

“Gary is a highly driven and motivated individual and someone who is respected by his peers, professional nursing colleagues and University lecturers.”

For media inquiries, please contact Queen’s University Communications Office, 028 9097 3091

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