Learning Disability Nursing student Giane Bishop has been shortlisted for a prestigious Student Nursing Times award in her first year at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU).
The 32-year-old from Leicester is one of five in contention to win the Student Innovation in Practice Award, having led the design of an easy-read poster outlining how people with learning disabilities can access the Covid-19 vaccine.
Many people with learning disabilities can’t read, so Giane, who works as the facilitator for an advocacy services group in Leicester, used simple images and plain English to create the step-by-step poster.
Her work has already been used in private and public clinics across Leicestershire, Northamptonshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire and, through the university’s international partners, has travelled as far as New York state.
Giane will now have a nervous wait until Thursday 4 November to find out if she has secured the award at a formal dinner at Grosvenor House Hotel in London.
“I was extremely flattered to even be put forward for a nomination for the Nursing Times Awards,” Giane said. “So, imagine my surprise that to find out that it’s been shortlisted – I’ve got everything crossed for November.
“Advocating support for people with learning disabilities is something I have always felt very strongly about. They are often misrepresented by society and the pandemic has only widened inequalities within their healthcare.
“Together with my personal tutor, Sam Humphrey, we invited the rest of my year to help out with the poster. It took us around a month to produce, which included getting the poster peer-reviewed and critiqued by a learning-disabled advocacy group. Getting this over the line wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my classmates or tutors.
“It feels amazing to have a piece of work I lead to be recognised so positively. As an older student it has been a very long time since I have had any work recognised, so to have it supported by DMU, the NHS and now the Nursing Times is incredible!”
Coronavirus disproportionately targets people with learning disabilities, especially those with neurological conditions. For example, people with Down’s syndrome often have a compromised immune system or an underlying heart condition, which greatly impact their ability to fight off the infection.
According to the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, this demographic is eight times more likely to die from Covid-19 compared to the general population.
To help counter this, in February 2021, the government expanded the number of people eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine to include those on the GP Learning Disability Register. In July, that was further expanded to include teenagers aged between 12-15 years with severe neurological disabilities such as Down’s syndrome and immunosuppression.
While specific data on the Covid-19 vaccine uptake among people with learning disabilities is not available, it is believed among academics that the lack of easy-to-understand information may prevent more people from having the vaccine.
Giane used this as her inspiration for creating the poster.
She said: “People with learning disabilities need to understand how to access the vaccine and that information surrounding public health needs is accessible for this group to be able to make informed decisions.
“When the announcement came that those on the GP Learning Disability register were added to the priority vaccine list, I felt that there wouldn’t be sufficient, easy-to-read information for these people to access.
“I’m hoping that our poster can help those with learning disabilities decide for themselves if they want to receive the vaccine.”
Giane was nominated for the award by Learning Disability Nursing subject lead Justine Barksby, who accompanied Giane down to London, where she presented her work to the Nursing Times’ judging panel.
Justine said: “Giane is such an outstanding student. For someone to take the initiative and create this learning disability-friendly guide is inspiring. Shortlisting for a prestigious award like this does not come easy, so we’re very proud of what she has achieved here.
“Lack of easily accessible information has often been a barrier to vaccination uptake among people with learning disabilities, which is why Giane’s work is so important.
“The poster has to be simplistic and picture-led because a large proportion of those with learning difficulties can’t read, and those that can only identify key phrases. Most decisions are therefore taken out of their hands, so this group can be particularly vulnerable to misinformation.
“Having Giane’s work displayed at some of our partner’s public and private healthcare clinics may help more disabled people understand how they can get vaccinated.”
More information about the Student Nursing Times Awards, including previous winners and tickets is available here.
Posted on Monday 4th October 2021