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Student nurse wins award for 'outstanding' compassion during prison placement

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A student nurse who demonstrated “outstanding” caring skills while working with prisoners and drug addicts during a placement has been recognised with an award from his university.

Simon Hunter, who graduated from Edinburgh Napier University yesterday, has been named this year’s winner of the Simon Pullin Award, which marks compassionate care in nursing and midwifery.

“Just as the lifelong smoker with terminal lung cancer or the obese patient with diabetes do not need their choices condemned at the bedside, neither does the drug addict”

Simon Hunter

During his training, Mr Hunter took part in clinical placements at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh and HMP Edinburgh.

While at the hospital he was inspired by a mentor who struck up a rapport with a long-term drug user on a respiratory ward, and the sincere manner in which the nurse approached the task.

“It was this experience that led me to question my own judgements and values, and inspired me to explore the kind of nursing that would challenge me to show compassion to those patients who have perhaps historically felt none,” said Mr Hunter.

Following this he took part in a four-week placement with the prison service, in which he learned the importance of compassion and withholding judgement.

“Just as the lifelong smoker with terminal lung cancer or the obese patient with diabetes do not need their choices condemned at the bedside, neither does the drug addict or convicted sex offender need their history overshadowing their care requirements or clouding the practice of those charged with delivering them,” he said.

“How we care when our values are challenged is probably one of the most difficult things we have to do”

Dr Stephen Smith

“They are suffering. They need help. It is our skills, our experience and, of course, our compassion that are needed,” said Mr Hunter.

“Nursing care means more than salves and stitches. It requires commitment, graft and skill but if you can bring these things to the table along with your compassion and empathy, you could have an extremely satisfying career ahead of you,” said Mr Hunte, who will now take up a post in the acute medical unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Napier University described Mr Hunter’s approach to compassionate care as “outstanding”.

Dr Stephen Smith, a senior lecturer at the university and a nurse consultant in compassionate care with NHS Lothian, highlighted the importance of professionals detaching their personal views from their jobs.

“How we care when our values are challenged is probably one of the most difficult things we have to do.

“In his account of his experiences, Simon demonstrated how important it is that we try to find a way to do so,” said Dr Smith.

The Simon Pullin Award provides recipients with £250 and was set up by the university in memory of senior nurse Simon Pullin who played a key role in the university’s compassionate care programme up until his death from cancer in 2011.

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Readers' comments (4)


  • Exhale he could show how a non judgemental attitude is vital part of nursing prisoners at the prison where I worked , where staff attitudes were appalling. One comment about a high profile child abuser being put up against a wall and shot was the least straw.
    The pain management for prisoners was disgraceful. My verbal and written complaints fell on deaf ears. Not sure if the management agreed or were fearful of staffing crisis if they were dismissed. The lead nurse was a bully and her manager fell into line as it was easier than challenge the bad proactive that was entrenched within the group. All nurses were from Eastern Europe and had no compassion, preferring to be part of the prisoners punishment than promote a caring environment

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  • Paedophiles should be strung up. If you don't want to do the time don't do the crime. Stick and tired of listening to idiots making excuses for low life.

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  • I have to agree with Shameonyou . There are plenty of people with mental health issues who haven't commited a crime who do not get the support treatment and sympathy they deserve.

    This is just political correctness going a step too far.

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  • Thank you Anonymous it's good to know that I am not the only one to voice these opinions, its almost getting to the stage now that many people are frightened of putting their heads above the parapet for fear of being shouted down.

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