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Our Launch

In September 2016, David was working as the Professor of Mental Health Services Research at the university, when he was asked – as the senior nurse in the medical school – if he would like to set up a new school of nursing. Never one to shirk a challenge, he immediately accepted. At the time he was also President of the European Academy of Nursing Science and so he took his experience of working with European nursing schools into his new role.

From the outset, David was clear that Exeter would be different. He wanted to avoid the conveyor belt system of nurse education. He wanted to design an integrated course. He wanted to ensure that mental health and physical health care were inseparable. He wanted to build a lasting relationship with patients and NHS staff. He wanted to make sure that nurses at Exeter learnt not only how to do their jobs but also why they did them.

From his own experiences as a patient – some positive, some less so – he wanted to bring skills in fundamental nursing care to the forefront of what became the Exeter Academy of Nursing. He wanted to educate nursing leaders, but the kind of old-fashioned leader that ‘knows how to walk the factory floor’ - i.e. nurses that can not only direct but also do the things they ask others to do. And do them with excellence. From these thoughts came the idea of the ‘Exeter Nurse’.

Now the Academy of Nursing is a reality. Students have started their education as nurses at Exeter. Exeter is leading the only externally funded research programme on caring for patients with COVID-19. Along the way, David ensured that the university gave the Academy enough space to work in (in the South Cloisters Building), commissioned the refurbishment of a state-of-the-art clinical simulation ward and insisted the university changed the name of the medical school as was to the ‘College of Medicine and Health’. When David and his initially small team presented their plans to the Nursing and Midwifery Council – the professional regulator for nursing – they passed their assessment without being given any conditions, an unprecedented outcome.

David stepped down after four years of being Head of Nursing, tired but satisfied. He has seen the team grow from one person (David alone) to a team of people, with more recruits to the team planned. The course has attracted great interest due to its innovative structure. The Academy is informed by strong relationships with patients and the public with its own PPI (Patient and Public Involvement) group, and with local NHS Trusts. He leaves, having turned the Exeter Nurse from an idea to a fully established reality and in the capable hands of Professor Ann Gallagher.