A DIABETES nurse at Westmorland General Hospital has been named the Alumnus of the Year by the University of Cumbria. 

Joanne Telford, 35, became a diabetes specialist nurse at the University Hospitals Morecambe Bay Trust less than five years after graduating. She is also a single mother and co-chair of the Community Nurse Ambassador Network.

She has spoken to Year 10 pupils across the UK inspiring the next generation to become nurses as part of the NHS England 'NextGen Nurse' project. 

Joanne said: "I am proud to represent the university in this way, and I look forward to collaborating in the future and representing those who may not feel they are a candidate for such an award." 

Joanne had to overcome the odds to become a specialist nurse. She grew up in Kendal in a single-parent household and then lived independently with her sister from 16.  

She was made temporarily homeless after she lost her live-in bar job. She sofa surfed until she got a room in a hostel. There, she started thinking about her future. 

Her inspiration for becoming a nurse came when she thought about how the district nurses supported care for her nan. She applied for a care assistant role in a local residential home, which allowed Joanna to pursue her passion for caring and nursing.

It also provided her with accommodation and the step-up needed to gain her own tenancy with a local housing association. 

Joanne became a clinical support worker at the Westmorland General Hospital in 2009, and then in 2011 gave birth to her daughter, Ida May. 

Becoming a single mum gave her a greater drive to pursue a career in nursing.

The Westmorland Gazette: Joanne Telford being conferred as Alumnus of the Year by the University of Cumbria's vice chancellor Professor MennellJoanne Telford being conferred as Alumnus of the Year by the University of Cumbria's vice chancellor Professor Mennell

In 2013 she completed the Access to Health and Social Care course at Kendal College. This opened the door to studying the BSc in Adult Nursing at the University of Cumbria. 

She graduated with a first-class degree despite her home being destroyed in the 2015 floods. 

She became a general practice nurse and took up a leadership role in a COVID-19 nurse team. 

After this she qualified to become a specialist diabetes nurse, earning her Alumnus of the Year.