John-Barry Waldon, a senior staff nurse at St Andrew’s Healthcare, the UK’s largest mental health charity and a provider of specialist care in mental health and learning disability, has been asked to join the prestigious judging panel for the 2021 Student Nursing Times Awards[i].

The awards were created by the Nursing Times to honour student or recently graduated nurses, and showcase excellent performance across 21 categories. They also celebrate lecturers, practice supervisors, universities, trusts and private organisations who go above and beyond to support student nurses.

John picked up the ‘Best Student Innovation in Practice’ prize at the 2020 awards, which led to him being invited to judge the submissions this year. He was recognised last year for launching the On the Ward podcast, which interviewed patients and staff who are based at the charity hospital.

He created the podcast as part of his dissertation during his nursing training and aimed to give patients with complex mental health issues the chance for their voices to be heard. It has had over 20,000 listeners to date.

John said: “It was a huge honour to receive the award last year for something that didn’t feel like work. Creating the podcast was a huge passion of mine as I’m a huge fan of radio, but also I wanted to find a way of breaking down the stigma that is so commonly attached to complex mental health.

“I was thrilled to be asked back to judge the awards this year as I know just how important these accolades are to nurses. We all work so hard, but it’s vital we recognise those nurses who are newly qualified and go above and beyond.”

John has been working at St Andrew’s for 15 years. He started out as a healthcare assistant but was able to progress to becoming a nurse through St Andrew’s Aspire Nursing programme.

The ASPIRE programme launched in 2016 and enables healthcare assistants to combine their learning and experience and jump straight into the second year of the University of Northampton’s Mental Health Nursing degree – completing a nursing degree in two years.

The ASPIRE programme owes its success to the partnership between St Andrew’s and the University, with the two organisations undertaking joint interviewing for places, ensuring they have the perspective from both a person-centred and academic point a view.

St Andrew’s Healthcare is part of the ‘Best of Both Worlds’ recruitment campaign. The campaign brings together the University of Northampton, Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Northampton General Hospital, Kettering General Hospital (KGH), St Andrew’s Healthcare and Northants GP and aims to recruit nurses, doctors and healthcare professionals to live and work in Northamptonshire.

To find out about vacancies across Northamptonshire visit http://bestofbothworlds.uk.net/