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A first for Saolta’s Children’s Nursing Graduates

Last year, seven new Children’s Nursing Specialists graduated from an innovative postgraduate programme developed by Saolta in conjunction with Trinity College Dublin and Children’s Health Ireland.

The newly qualified specialist nurses are based in Letterkenny University Hospital, Sligo University Hospital, Mayo University Hospital, Galway University Hospitals and Portiuncula University Hospital.

This programme is unique in that it delivers a blended learning model with remote and in-person lectures, and is the only pathway which allows post-registration nurses to pursue a Higher Diploma in Children’s Nursing without undertaking a course based in Dublin.

Children’s healthcare services are facing ever-increasing demands due to the evolving profile of children’s healthcare needs. The number of Children’s Nurses qualifying is low in comparison with other disciplines and this programme was born from a need to ensure Saolta’s nursing teams continue to have the highest level of skill, qualification and training to care for our younger population.

Siobhán Horkan, Director of Paediatric Nursing for the Saolta Group who led the project, explains, “The provision and resourcing of effective child healthcare services are critical in both preventing and managing illness and chronic disease in childhood. For this, we need an adaptable, knowledgeable and skilled children's nursing workforce. It’s crucial we continue to train Registered Children’s Nurses in a way that works for students.

“Throughout the hybrid programme students attended lectures online and in person, had clinical placements in hospitals across Saolta, CHI at Crumlin, CAMHS, Neonatal Intensive Care Units, Emergency Departments as well as clinical placements in the community. The blended learning model means students can undertake placements closer to home and are not required to be based in Dublin, this is a huge selling point.”

Lorna Middleton, is one of the seven graduates of the new programme. Lorna is a nurse in Sligo University Hospital and speaks about her motivation for undertaking the course.  She said, “I never thought it would be possible to achieve my dream of becoming a registered children's nurse. I had over 16 years’ experience in the paediatric ward but moving to Dublin for a year was not an option due to a busy family life.

“The new hybrid Higher Diploma in Children's Nursing allowed me to pursue my dream. Although it was a busy year with work and travel, I felt very well supported by my clinical placement coordinator, my lecturers and the other students. I found that I enjoyed the academic work and the load was achievable whilst juggling placements and family commitments.

Lorna continued, “Having obtained the formal Registered Children’s Nurse qualification I feel very proud. I have more self-confidence and motivation and my patients will benefit from up to date evidence based care.” 

Paul Hooton, Chief Director of Nursing and Midwifery for the Saolta Group said; “This programme is a milestone in the training of Children’s Nurses in Ireland and also a brilliant example of nursing innovation in action. The Saolta Hybrid Post Registration Nursing Programme is a proven, successful education model which will positively impact both our capacity to deliver specialist nursing care, and the health and wellbeing of the children and young people who use our services well into the future.

We are now training specialist Children’s Nurses in the west and north west of Ireland and have the opportunity to expand the number of registered Children’s Nurses available to care for children across our acute and community services. I am very proud of everyone involved in this programme and congratulate the inaugural class of 2023 on their achievements.”

The programme will be open to new applications shortly, email the programme coordinator Karen Grennan ( for more information.

The newly qualified Children’s Nurse Specialists are based in the following Saolta hospitals

  • Amy Gannon – Mayo University Hospital
  • Helen Rooney – Galway University Hospitals
  • Faith Zinyemba – Letterkenny University Hospital
  • Agnieszka Maria  Kuczewska – Sligo University Hospital
  • Lorna Middleton – Sligo University Hospital
  • Soumya Assariparambil Renjan – Portiuncula University Hospital
  • Cait Costello – Portiuncula University Hospital


The article above is specific to the following Saolta hospitals:: 
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