New society president looks to the future - and reflects on the past

Thu, 05 Aug 2021 16:19:00 BST
Rebecca Stewart takes over as President from Natalie Elliott
Rebecca Stewart takes over as President from Natalie Elliott

An Adult Nursing student is preparing for the year ahead after taking on the role of President of the GCU Students’ Association’s Nursing Society. 

It’s been a period of transition, with outgoing president Natalie Elliott vacating her position having provided the spark to kick-start the society almost two years ago. Now, Rebecca Stewart is looking to lead the way and is keen to build on success, while also implementing her own ideas. 

We caught up with Rebecca to hear about her personal journey and plans for the year ahead - covering everything from cruise ships to the importance of asking for feedback.  


How did you end up studying at GCU? 

“I left school at the age of 17 and went to University through in Edinburgh, studying Psychology with Law. I loved the law part but wasn’t as interested in psychology. I worked three jobs throughout my degree and through that I built my way up in restaurants. I became a manager and worked in places like TGI Fridays and also had my own Patisserie Valerie.  

I then took the massive leap to not do my Honours year and instead went to work as a restaurant manager with Disney Cruise Line for a year. It was such a good experience and hospitality provides so many life lessons - I can definitely make a mean cocktail! 

Despite all this, I had been thinking about doing nursing for a while. About four years agomy mum fell off her horse and done some real damage – we almost lost her because she ended up with sepsis. I think that experience and my dad being a paramedic really influenced me.  

On top of this, when I first went into University, I completed a six month volunteering trip in Kenya with First Aid Africa. The trip was basically to teach first aid to people in remote areas using only the resources they have access to, so that it’s totally self-sustainable when you leave. We were using sticks as splints and things like that. I’ve always been interested in helping people and that time volunteering has honestly been the happiest time in my life up until I went for a career in nursing.  

I was then asked to go back and manage the five star restaurant on the top deck of Disney and that exact same day was when I got my offer from GCU. I already had offers from Stirling and UWS and I was really considering going back to the cruise ships. However, it was a simple decision to make when the offer came in from GCU. I just knew it was what I wanted to do and that I wanted to go to  GCU because they really sold themselves and came across so passionately – while also being candid and reminding people that nursing is actually a really tough course. 

How did you become involved in the GCU Students’ Association’s Nursing Society? 

“The Nursing Society started up in the middle of my first year, it was Natalie Elliott who got it all going. I joined it initially as a member and eventually saw they were looking for new people for the committee and put an application in around September last year. I actually didn’t hear anything back at that point and I was wondering what was wrong. I felt I needed to know if there was a reason why I hadn’t heard back and if there was something I could have improved on. I actually contacted Natalie just to basically say that I hadn’t heard back and I was still happy to be a member – but I just wanted to know for future if there was something in particular I could do differently.  

Natalie and I then had a video chat that evening and she explained that she loved the fact I’d came back looking for feedback. She had spoken to the other committee members and explained that this was the type of person she was wanting involved. From there I became a committee member.  

Funnily enough, It turned out it was just an error with the original application not going through but I just needed closure – which definitely paid off! 

From there, how did things progress and lead to you becoming the new society president? 

“Natalie had been talking about how she would be stepping down to focus on other things and that the position would be available. I never really thought I would go for president because I was a bit hesitant when the society first started. However, it has really helped me through University because it showed me that everyone was in the same situation. Even through social media they were constantly checking how everyone was doing, which made a massive difference to me.  

It was through that and becoming a committee member that I realised how important the society actually is. Our timetables means that we can’t easily be a member of other societies because we don’t have the time off but having this support there really sparked a bit of passion inside of me.” 

How excited are you to take on this role? 

I couldn’t believe it to be honest! I was in-between at first because I really wanted to go for it but also thought it might have been too soon, since I was the newest member of the committee. I then decided to just go for it because I realised how passionate I was about it all. I wanted to be the one to go on and make a difference – if you don’t try then you’ll only regret it later.  

To get that confidence shown in me from the committee via the votes was amazing. I definitely shed a tear or two when I got off the call telling me I’d got it!” 

What are you looking to focus on over the next year? 

“My biggest aim this year is actually to just increase the size of the committee. I’m going to create more positions but also have quite a few general members as well. The society has grown massively and we have a few hundred members but the committee only currently has five of us in total 

By eventually getting back on campus, I’m hoping we’ll get more interest and be able to grow the committee so there’s more of a support and shared responsibility, rather than the onus being on a select few.” 

Have you got any plans for events involving student nurses lined up? 

“There is a lot of data around the poor health and wellbeing of nurses. We preach health promotion but then we’re not that healthy ourselves, which is obviously down to the stress of the job and things like shift patterns. One of my main ideas is to get everyone together but also improve fitness, so we’ve started up a walking group.  

The first walk took place last month and we’re also raising money for Diabetes UK. This obviously ties into us being the University for the Common Good and allows us to raise money for a charity that we all really believe in as a society. It’s also a great way for us all to get together and create friendships.” 

You can keep up to date with the latest developments from the society on Twitter. 

By Ross Clark 
Got an SHLS or GSBS story? Email or connect with me on Twitter