Meet Alison Bunce, an FNF Scholar, who was recently named RCN Nurse of the Year 2022. Here Alison tells us about what led to her setting up Compassionate Inverclyde, and how her FNF Scholarship played a part: 

Alison Bunce
Director of Care at Ardgowan Hospice

Queen’s Nurse Alison Bunce was named RCN Nurse of the Year 2022 in October, for her work supporting her local community in Inverclyde. Alison set up Compassionate Inverclyde, which inspires ordinary people to do things for ordinary people by tapping into our desire to be kind, helpful and neighbourly. Here Alison, an FNF Scholar, tells us about what led to her setting up Compassionate Inverclyde, and how her FNF Scholarship played a part:

“In 2016 I was the Director at Ardgowan Hospice in Greenock, and for many years before that, I had been talking about compassionate communities. However in 2016, there weren’t any compassionate communities in Inverclyde and unfortunately, there weren’t any locally that I could tap into to be able to look into setting one up in Greenock.

However, I had read a piece of research which had taken place in Australia which looked at bringing our dying home and I was really, really interested in that because that was part of the idea that I had around creating a compassionate community.

Because I was so keen, the CEO at the Hospice suggested I start looking for funding to make my idea a reality and it was through this research that I found out about the Florence Nightingale Foundation, and the Scholarships which are available.

The more research I did and the more I read, I realised that as a nurse it really fitted with my values and I believed by applying for a scholarship, if I was successful, it could enable me to make my dream of creating a compassionate community come true. So I applied. And I was absolutely delighted to be selected for an interview in London. I was then even more delighted to find out I had been successful and would receive a Travel Scholarship.

I won’t lie, it was also quite daunting because part of the criteria to get the Scholarship at the time was that you had to get an article published, and that terrified me because I’m not a great writer. But, it actually pushed me outside my comfort zone which in hindsight was a good thing, and I did go on to get an article published, which was a wonderful achievement and something I am very proud of.

“It’s so important to keep learning and developing and continuing to believe in yourself and what you can achieve.”

When I applied for a Florence Nightingale Foundation Scholarship, I didn’t know anybody that had done one, but I’ve since found out that Clare Cable, the Chief Executive of the Queens Nursing Institute in Scotland had also done a leadership scholarship. I’m keen for more nurses and midwives in Scotland to apply because the Scholarships really do have a huge impact not only on your career but on your self-confidence and self-belief.

And of course, doing the Scholarship had a huge impact on me, at the time going to Australia to do research, and I also went to America. Travelling to these places allowed me to really spread my wings. It allowed me to go and visit with the professor that had written the research I had originally read and really understand their position on compassionate communities in Australia and what they were doing. Likewise by going to Ohio in America I was able to see how their No One Dies Alone programme works. Both of these opportunities were really incredible. I spent two weeks with nurses in Ohio and came back with the confidence to set up the first No One Dies Alone programme in Scotland, which has been incredible and made such a difference to the local community.

Doing a Florence Nightingale Foundation Scholarship was life-changing – it may sound twee, but it really was. It gave me the foundation, a springboard almost for developing my ideas, and it allowed me the financial support enabling me to go to these places to find out more but also the professional support as I had a mentor who I could buddy up with and discuss things which was so important and valuable. I would really recommend other nurses to look into the Scholarships that the Florence Nightingale Foundation have available, but also their leadership programmes. It’s so important to keep learning and developing and continuing to believe in yourself and what you can achieve.

I was lucky enough to be announced as the RCN Nurse of the Year 2022 in October, which was a huge surprise. I wasn’t expecting it at all, but I’ve kind of processed it now and allowed myself to accept it a bit. I had the whole imposter syndrome thing going on when it was announced, thinking ‘it can’t be me it must be somebody else’. But I’ve had time now to let it settle and I’m just so proud as it recognises the commitment and hard work, I have put in.”

You can read more about Alison here ‘Kindness is infectious’: meet our RCN Nurse of the Year 2022 (rcni.com)

And if you are interested in any of the programmes and Scholarships which we have available, please click here.