A GRADUATE from Port Seton has been honoured for her caring skills after she impressed colleagues at Belhaven Hospital in Dunbar and the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh while working on placement as a student nurse.

Edinburgh Napier University graduate Mhairi McDonald, 24, of Rowanhill Drive, had a mental health patient – who had neglected his personal appearance and hygiene – in tears of gratitude after she helped him with his personal care and renewed his sense of independence.

On another occasion, the former Ross High School pupil comforted a grieving husband and listened to stories about his married life as he said his final farewell to his wife, who suddenly died of cardiac arrest just days before their wedding anniversary.

Mhairi, who previously worked at Leuchie House in North Berwick and as a carer in East Lothian for Bluebird Care, graduated from Edinburgh Napier last Thursday and was named this year’s winner of the university’s Simon Pullin Award.

The award, which comes with £250 in prize money, was established to recognise the human side of nursing and midwifery. It was created 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 July 2011.

In her submission for the prize, Mhairi wrote: “Compassion can be lots of small things, like a cup of Horlicks before bed, a hand to hold or an ear to listen. It involves picking up on unspoken concerns and recognising and responding appropriately.”

Mhairi told the Courier: “I had never expected to win the award, it was nice enough to hear the kind words which were said about me and to know that somebody had appreciated my time.

“I think it’s important to be mindful that although a hospital visit is an everyday experience for me, it isn’t for patients. It might be a day they remember for the rest of their lives and I think trying to maintain a sense of normality for them by being conscious of their needs and values is important.

“I feel lucky I will get to continue to work in a career where compassionate care will be a defining aspect and that I’ll have the continuous opportunity to be inspired by my patients.”

Staff who had mentored Mhairi on her hospital placements reinforced her written submission with praise for her kindness, concern, maturity and professionalism.

Dr Stephen Smith, a senior lecturer at the university and a nurse consultant in compassionate care with NHS Lothian, said: “The examples of what Mhairi learned from practice were powerful and touching to read, and demonstrated a beautiful sensitivity and commitment to the delivery of compassionate care whatever the context.”

Emma Trotter, the university’s field lead in adult nursing, added: “The review panel valued the comprehensive and extremely positive feedback from mentors included within Mhairi’s portfolio. It highlighted an ability to provide compassionate care and demonstrate empathy while working to a highly professional standard.”

Mhairi has now taken up a job in the Acute Medical Unit at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh.