Dr Sarah Cuffe pictured with Laura Tully at the Irish Healthcare Awards last week. Photo: Karl Hussey

Athlone IT nurse honoured at Irish Healthcare awards

A local nurse said she was absolutely thrilled to be chosen for a top honour at the Irish Healthcare Awards in Dublin's Mansion House last Thursday night.

The inaugural 'Practice Nurse of The Year Award' went to Ballydangan native Laura Tully, who is the Institute Nurse and Health Centre Coordinator in Athlone IT.

Laura was nominated for the award by her colleague, Dr Sarah G. Cuffe.

"I am really blown away," said Laura. "To have been one of the four nurses shortlisted was incredible and then to be selected as the winner is remarkable, especially as the calibre of the other entries was so high. To be rewarded for doing a job you love is wonderful."

The annual awards, which are hosted by Irish Medical Times and its publisher MPI Media, celebrate excellence and innovation in the Irish health system.

Laura told the Westmeath Independent that the confidential nature of her work means that much of what she does is unseen by others, and this was one of the reasons why the award was so gratifying.

"As well as being thrilled with the personal recognition, I’m delighted that the award recognises the enormous support Athlone IT provides to students on campus," she commented.

A graduate of NUI Galway, Laura previously worked in Portiuncula Hospital, the Galway Clinic, and a GP practice in Ballinasloe. She has been working in Athlone IT since 2012 and said her role there is very busy but extremely rewarding.

AIT is a non-smoking campus and Laura encourages students to make healthy choices through health promotion clinics. She does a lot of work in areas such as sexual health, alcohol and drug clinics, smoking cessation, and promoting positive mental health.

"I am in a position where I can make a difference to people’s lives. I’m very lucky to be able to do that," she said.

"I advocate for, and constantly strive to improve, healthcare services for students. While studying at third level, it’s an optimum time to instil good health values and promote health and wellbeing."

Laura also deals with the everyday presentations that a general practice nurse sees. "I run a fully functioning general medical centre and I personally see about 2,500 students a year for consultation. I also provide emergency response for the entire campus," she stated.

The Campus Health Service operates confidentially Monday-Friday for students, and nurse services are free.

Laura's involvement in student health has also led her to become involved with the Irish Student Health Association and she is currently president of the association.

She thanked her family, friends, and colleagues for their support, particularly her parents Noel and Kathleen Higgins, husband Niall, and daughters Erica (7) and Evanna (4).

A reception was held in AIT following Laura's return from the awards in Dublin, and her work was complimented by the college president Prof Ciarán Ó Catháin and Student Resource Centre manager Sarah La Cumbre.