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GRADUATIONS 2023: “I am honoured to have been a part of the McArdle experience”

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Published on 12 July 2023

Amy Burlison and Mark McArdle
Amy Burlison and Mark McArdle

The first ever recipient of a prestigious nursing scholarship today graduates from the University of Sunderland before heading to the NHS’ frontline as a surgical-day nurse.

Amy Burlison says the Helen McArdle Scholarship allowed her to focus on her Adult Nursing degree studies by providing financial support for herself and family, fulfilling her career ambitions.

In 2019 Helen McArdle CBE donated £2.5m to the University of Sunderland. The multi-million pound partnership with the philanthropist and entrepreneur is benefitting teaching and research in nursing and care. Through scholarships and student prizes, Helen’s donation also supports and celebrates trainee nurses at the Sunderland School of Nursing. The University’s Shackleton House building was also re-named the Helen McArdle Nursing and Care Research Institute in recognition of this extraordinary gift. 

Amy, 31, from Sunderland, says: “I am forever grateful to Helen and her son Mark McArdle for being a recipient of their McArdle Scholarship, it enabled me to focus on my studies and it provided extra financial support for myself and my family whilst I was studying with such a young child. I am honoured to have been a part of the McArdle experience.” 

Amy stepped on stage at the Stadium of Light to collect her degree certificate during this year’s Summer Graduation Ceremonies.

Helen McArdle said: "Back in 2019, we were so proud to establish The Helen McArdle Scholarship and prizes programme to encourage people into the vital and rewarding profession of nursing. 

“This year is particularly special as the first cohort of our scholars are now completing their degrees and graduating - we are delighted to join the well-deserved celebrations and look forward to what the future holds for this programme."

Prior to studying at Sunderland, Amy was a healthcare assistant working on the surgical day-case unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital for eight years. 

She says: “Whilst I was a healthcare assistant, I studied the Clinical Support Work Practice Development Course in partnership with the University which provided me with the credits I needed to then progress onto the Adult Nursing programme.”

She added: “I’ve enjoyed the programme and gained so much experience in many different areas which has provided me with the skills I need to practice as a Registered Nurse.”

Amy says one of the major hurdles she experienced during her studies was starting a degree at the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“I expected to be able to attend lectures and have practical studies, but COVID changed everything. It was a whole new experience for everyone, new ways of learning, online lectures, studying from home whilst looking after my daughter as she was only 14 months old at the time, it was a challenging experience.”

Amy is now a Registered Nurse and has returned to work in the surgical day-case unit at Sunderland Royal Hospital. 

“It’s lovely to go back to a place where I feel comfortable with a supportive team behind me to start my nursing career,” she says.

Sue Brent, Head of the School of Nursing and Health Sciences, said: “We are thrilled to see Amy graduating. As the very first recipient of the Helen McArdle Scholarship, it makes the occasion even more special for her and her family.

“These scholarships and awards have opened up opportunities and are benefitting for our nursing students during their time with us,  learning in our exceptional industry standard facilities.


Winner of this year’s Helen McArdle Nursing Prize of £150, awarded to an outstanding student, is Lillie Ternent.

Lillie, 27, from Hebburn, was awarded for her work as the group representative, student representation and supporting stakeholder development for placement experience.

Lillie says she is “thrilled and honoured” with her award, and has begun work as a Community Staff Nurse with South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust.