Danny Cook, who began training as a nurse after he was inspired by the efforts of NHS workers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, has now been appointed to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) National Student Committee to represent all nursing and midwifery students within the northern region of England.
Danny, 30, a second-year student on the Blended Learning BSc Adult Nursing Practice Programme at Sunderland, said: “This is probably the proudest moment of my nursing journey so far. During my first year I became the course rep, providing a voice on behalf of my class. But going from representing 25 students to now thousands across the region means I can expand on that role and try to enhance the experiences of each student. I have been a RCN student ambassador for a year so when I was informed of the upcoming elections at a national level, I knew it was something I wanted to do.”
He added: “I now hope to promote the interests of nursing and midwifery students at a policy level, as well as promote the success of the Blended Learning programme.”
Danny, from Gateshead, was one of the first students to sign up for the new nursing programme last year, developed in partnership with Health Education England. It includes the same content and structure the BSc (Hons) Adult Nursing Practice degree – approved by the Nursing and Midwifery Council – but with the benefit of online teaching and in-person learning at an NHS trust, offering flexibility to fit study around circumstances, responsibilities, and location.
Sunderland was announced as one of seven universities to introduce the Blended programme to help grow the nursing workforce in the UK.
Simone Bedford, Team Leader for Professional Healthcare Practice and Midwifery at the University of Sunderland, said: “This is an excellent opportunity for Danny to represent student nurses across the region in a national forum. He is the first and only blended learning nursing student on the RCN National Student Committee. He is passionate about the student experience and will be a superb ambassador for the University.”
Nursing had long been on the career wish-list for Danny, but due to work in operational administration and personnel, alongside financial commitments, it meant the dream was constantly on hold.
However, the pandemic changed all that as Danny explains: “My interest in nursing really peaked during the early days of the pandemic. At the time, I felt helpless, and although standing on the doorstep clapping for nurses and healthcare professionals was great, I did not feel I was playing my part, so that’s when I thought about a total career change and doing something that would make an impact to the lives of everyday people.
“The University of Sunderland was then announced as one of seven in the country to roll out the new Blended Learning approach to study, which meant I could study full-time, while also still being able to work. Having done some research, I also found the facilities and teaching quality within the nursing field where highly praised at the University.”
Danny now works as a nursing assistant at Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, while studying for his degree, and is also currently on placement at Newcastle Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. He plans to work as a trauma nurse within an accident and emergency department once he graduates.
“The course is going great,” he says. “I have loved every part of it. It can be intense at times, especially around assignment submissions, but my personal highlights have been when on placement, putting the skills we learn at university into practice and building on them. It’s only then that I realise how all the theory we learn, shapes how we practice with patients in every interaction.
“Meeting my fellow students and the support we get from each other is amazing, and the tutors and staff are brilliant, they’re always there when needed.”
Danny now plans to work hard on behalf of the student nursing community.
“Aside from my roles within the university and RCN, I am also an NHS Ambassador, which in the near future will allow me to meet school and college students and provide advice and inspire the future generation of healthcare workers. This is something I am particularly excited about.”
As the new term begins for students, what advice does Danny have for those just beginning their own university journey?
“I would be to take everything out of your learning opportunities you can and get involved. Also, just enjoy it, it’s a long, at times hard, but massively rewarding experience as a student.”