A University of East Anglia (UEA) graduate with over 60 years' experience of nursing in the Eastern region has been awarded with her own Honorary Fellowship to recognise her achievement and inspire the next generation of nurses.
Lesley Williams, 80, was awarded an Honorary Fellowship at this year’s Scholarship Reception, a title that recognises her incredible career in the service of others and her commitment to the University.
Lesley celebrated her 60th year of nursing by creating a UEA scholarship in her name (for a postgraduate course which commenced at UEA in 2021), and she was joined at the reception event by the first Lesley Williams Master’s Scholar in Nursing, Katherine Leaver.
Care of the elderly has always been at the forefront of Lesley’s work, and Lesley continues to offer nursing care in her community at the age of 80, teaching several fall prevention classes a week on top of her role as Parish Nurse in Bury St Edmunds providing palliative care, among other services.
Lesley explains why she decided to create this scholarship, saying:
“Training, inspiring and supporting the next generation of nurses and healthcare workers is especially crucial now with the rise in health challenges all over the world. I firmly believe that giving students an extra boost to widen local and international knowledge assists them in gaining confidence and enables their personal advancement, ultimately making a difference to their patient care –especially in the care of the elderly.”
“I wanted to create this scholarship to broaden student awareness and hopefully make a positive change for the future. I have no doubts that UEA will support the students during their studies.”
Katherine Leaver said:
“Studying nursing at UEA has been an enriching and transformative experience. The programme's focus on compassionate care, evidence-based practice, and the empowerment of students has ignited my passion for my profession. Lesley’s inspirational story and vast experience shows what can be achieved with the passion and drive to make a difference.”
Lesley’s long and distinguished career began with training at the Royal Free in London in 1961, followed by a move to Suffolk where she discovered her unending passion for elderly care. In Suffolk, Lesley held a variety of ward-based and teaching roles, including Staff Nurse, Ward Sister, Clinical Teacher, Senior Nurse Tutor, Nurse Consultant, and Director of Post Registration Education. During this period, Lesley was also active writing articles for the Nursing Press and was invited to various countries, including the Seychelles, to train Nurses.
Lesley’s relationship with UEA started in 1984, when, as a Senior Nurse at West Suffolk Hospital, she began studying for a master's degree, researching the use of music in patient care, specifically around music’s role in memory recall – a trailblazing idea at the time.
In 1992, Lesley was awarded the Florence Nightingale Award for Research in the Care of the Elderly, which included a travel scholarship to visit Europe where she researched elderly care and brought together twin towns of the EU with Great Yarmouth and Halesworth.
Since the 1980s, Lesley has been a regular visitor to UEA, where she continues to inspire the healthcare professionals of tomorrow. She said:
“UEA has been an integral part of fuelling my passion toward nursing. I love coming here regularly and talking to the student nurses. This is part of my world, so I am just absolutely thrilled they have honoured me in such a special way.”
“When I come back to UEA I’m always struck by how much has changed, but also, how much remains the same – namely the passion of the students to make a difference. When I was training, we had a dummy to learn with that we called Mrs Bedford, it didn’t have any veins or orifices to practise techniques with, all of this was done on a ward with patients, I think the new way is probably more comfortable for all involved!”
In the 2022-23 academic year, the University welcomed over 60 donor-funded scholars, and speaking about the importance of donor-funded scholarships, David Ellis, Director of Development at UEA, said:
“We’re thrilled and proud to recognise Lesley who has had such a profound impact in her field of work with this award. Philanthropy remains one of the main drivers behind these scholarships and donors like Lesley are critical to not just providing the needed financial support to our students, but also to inspire them to be the best versions of themselves.”