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Northern Ireland Health Visitor Supporting a Community of Mums up for top UK Award


A health visitor described as ‘a guardian angel, who shows great empathy and gives the families in our community strength and confidence’ has been nominated for a prestigious award.

Mum Olivia McManus says Noreen Ferguson, who works in Belleek, County Fermanagh, not only helped and guided her family through their son’s autism diagnosis, but also acts as a rock for the whole community.

Noreen, who works for Western Health and Social Care Trust, is one of six nurses, but the only one from Northern Ireland, who have been named as a finalist in the Patient’s Choice category of the RCNi Nurse Awards. The award enables members of the public to thank a nurse, midwife, health visitor, healthcare assistant or assistant practitioner who has provided exceptional care.

Voting is now open to the public. To vote for Noreen, visit This year the awards, sponsored by the Nursing Standards are even more prestigious as 2020 is the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife. The winner will be announced at a virtual ceremony later in the year.

Mum Olivia said: ‘My husband and I struggled to come to terms with the autism diagnosis. Our hearts were breaking but Noreen helped and guided us with every aspect, so we are now better equipped to deal with it.

“Noreen spotted development delays at their son Dáire’s two-year review.  Myself and my husband were not ready to face or believe the diagnosis and Noreen recognised this.  On Father’s Day we had a difficult family day out with a very public meltdown, and it really brought home what we were facing.

“At the health centre the next day, Noreen instantly acknowledged why I needed to see her. She came towards me with outstretched arms and hugged me, one of the most poignant moments in my life. The emotion of everything surfaced that day and Noreen spent the afternoon explaining the process of referral, talking me through avenues to get Dáire the best possible interventions, listening to my hopes and fears for my son. This was a very hard day for me and I am indebted to Noreen for being there.”

Nominator - Olivia McManusOlivia continued: “Some would say it’s her job, but Noreen is more than that to a whole community of families, all of whom admire her friendly and practical approach, where we see her as a true friend, confidante, counsellor, therapist and mother figure.’

“Many mums in our area have been through many different challenges, and it is always Noreen’s name that is mentioned for her invaluable support.  Noreen is the one we can turn to. She arms us mums with the coping mechanisms and confidence to deal with what comes our way, ultimately benefiting our children.

“In the past year, Dáire has made vast improvements in his speech, eye-contact, social skills and many other areas. Any tears I shed now are ones of happiness and pride at how well he is doing. This is all thanks to Noreen.

Speaking about her nomination Noreen she is shocked to have been nominated: “I can’t believe that someone has been so kind to actually go to the trouble that Olivia did to nominate me. It is so heartfelt and so lovely to hear. It is also recognition for what we do as Health Visitors. We are a fabulous team.

“Olivia is a super mum and her husband Brendan is a great dad. I did not realise the difference I had made to her life. I felt I was just doing my job. As Health Visitors, sometimes we do not realise the impact we have.”

Hilary Campbell, Lead Nurse Public Health, Women and Children’s Services at the Western Trust, said: ‘I am delighted that Health Visitor Noreen Ferguson been nominated for this prestigious RCNi Patient’s Choice Award.

“Noreen is a dedicated, committed, caring professional, whose passion through selfless hard work is always to ensure that all the children in her care get the best start in life.  In doing so, Noreen enhances the life of individual families and the community in which they live.

“This a well-deserved nomination. Good luck Noreen from all your colleagues.”