Kingston University student who worked on Covid-19 frontline shortlisted for learning disability nursing award and writes poem about life as a student

A Kingston University learning disability nursing student has been shortlisted for a prestigious accolade at this year’s Student Nursing Times Awards.

Martina Gomez has been nominated for the Student Nurse of the Year: Learning Disabilities award. She was recognised for her passion and drive to address inequalities people with learning disabilities face, taking multiple leadership roles to nurture and inspire her peers and her work on the frontline during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Humbled by being shortlisted, Martina said she would always be a big advocate for people with learning disabilities and those caring for them. “Learning disability nursing and supporting individuals is more than a job, it is every part of who I am. I’m passionate about education and awareness and hope that, during my studies at Kingston, I was able to make some difference,” she said.

The mature student, who graduates this summer, was one of hundreds of Kingston University nursing students helping the national fight against coronavirus as she worked in a Twickenham residential care home. She also donated more than 200 hand creams to fellow care and nursing home staff after receiving cash pledges to give the items to key workers so they could give their hands clean moisturised throughout their shifts.

Inspired to pursue a career in health and social care by her 18 year old autistic son, Martina decided to study learning disability nursing at Kingston. She immediately set about making a difference by forming a group of nursing students and academics from across the nursing fields who could be Learning Disability Champions at the University and in acute general hospitals in the borough.

In her second year Martina chaired the Kingston Nursing Society, (a group of nursing students who work together and support eachother) increased its membership and raised funds to host a number of high-profile public events. She also took up a voluntary role as an academic mentor for first year University students, which entailed offering support and guidance with their studies, administration and work-life balance.

Martina completed a residential home placement in her final year, while also ensuring her son was cared for and supported during the pandemic. Despite these challenges, she still found time to enter Kingston University’s annual Bright Ideas competition, which gives students the opportunity to develop ideas and solutions for everyday problems for the chance to win £1,000. Her reusable learning resource giving information to healthcare professionals was highly commended by judges.

Senior lecturer in learning disability nursing at Kingston University Daniel Marsden is Martina’s personal tutor and said her passion and leadership, including her role as a student ambassador for CapitalNurse which ensures London has the right number of nurses and skills across the capital, was inspirational. “Martina’s values, drive and perseverance to mitigate the inequalities people with learning disabilities face is awe-inspiring. The work she does nurturing and inspiring the next generation of nurses is vital and a testament to the ways she can creatively express herself and ensure her message is heard,” he said.

Elsewhere in the Student Nursing Times Awards shortlist, Haringey Learning Disability Partnership Nursing Team, who have provided placements to Kingston students for nine years, has been nominated for the Student Placement of the Year: Community accolade. The University’s course lead for the BSc nursing programme and link lecturer for the partnership Anne Ambridge praised the team for its quick adaptation to the pandemic.

“They were one of the first community placement areas to approach us to identify innovative ways of working with our student nurses to maintain an excellent learning experience in the face of government restrictions. We worked hard together to develop an effective learning pathway for students and secured funds to ensure they had full access to online resources for the duration of the placement,” she said.

The University has a rich history at the Student Nursing Times Awards. Last year, children’s nursing lecturer Zoe Clark won Educator of the Year and in 2019, Kingston University scooped up three awards.

The announcement of this year’s winners takes place on Thursday 4 November at the Grosvenor Hotel in London.

Listen to a poem from Martina Gomez about life as a student learning disability nurse during the pandemic here.