Searching for the best: the RCNi Nurse Awards

The search for the best in nursing is under way with the launch of the RCNi Nurse Awards 2018, the profession’s top accolade.

The search for the best in nursing is under way with the launch of the RCNi Nurse Awards 2018, the profession’s top accolade


Our contest to honour the nation’s inspirational and innovative nurses is again under way with the launch of the RCNi Nurse Awards 2018, the profession’s top accolade.

Sharon Foy (left), whose team won the Cancer Nursing Practice Award for 2017.
Picture: John Houlihan

The awards celebrate nursing excellence and offer nurses, midwives, health visitors, students and support workers the chance to nominate a colleague or team for their outstanding contribution to care, or share their own practice.

The 14 categories include Cancer Nursing Practice and one sponsored by Cancer Research UK, called Excellence in Cancer Research.

Sharon Foy led the secondary breast cancer specialist team from the Christie NHS Foundation Trust that won the Cancer Nursing Practice Award for 2017. She entered the team to celebrate its achievements and also raise the profile of secondary breast cancer care and the needs of this patient group.

‘It doesn’t have the same profile as primary breast cancer, which can pull resources in because of the targets it has,’ she says. ‘We wanted to highlight the difference a dedicated secondary breast cancer service can have.

‘We went to parliament to present our service as an example of how to focus on secondary breast cancer and lobby MPs. People from around the country want to come and see what we are doing.’

She adds that winning the award has helped the service go from strength to strength. You can get caught up in a bubble and the highs and lows of working in the health service,’ she says.

‘Winning a Nurse Award gives you that momentum and the confidence to take those next steps.

‘And it cemented us as a team and reinforced our sense of shared goals.’

Julie Hoole, then lead cancer nurse at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust, won the Excellence in Cancer Research category for her ‘excellent work, breaking taboos and making patients’ lives better’.

Watch: Excellence in Cancer Research winner Julie Hoole describes her project



She developed the MHK Tool – a sexual dysfunction and intimacy questionnaire – to help health professionals advise head and neck cancer patients on how to deal with changes in their sexual and physical relationships during and after treatment.

‘It is an opportunity to showcase what you do and share it on a wider platform,’ she says.

‘The Nurse Awards experience was really quite magical. A lot of people contacted me afterwards and it opened a lot of doors’

Julie Hoole

‘The Nurse Awards experience was really quite magical. A lot of people contacted me afterwards and it opened a lot of doors,’ she adds.

‘People asked me to come to give talks to professionals, and if they could have the tool,’ she adds. ‘It helped professionals begin to ask questions in other areas.’

For Julie it was important to give the research a nursing platform. ‘The awards were invaluable in raising that awareness,’ she adds.

‘It meant the work reached a greater audience than just the head and neck arena. As nurses we want to address our patients’ holistic needs, and that is whatever is important to the person in front of you. Nurses need to be able to open the door and start difficult conversations,’ Julie says.

Julie Hoole (centre), winner of the Excellence in Cancer Research category for 2017.
 Picture: John Houlihan

She ‘wholeheartedly’ recommends nursing colleagues to enter for 2018.

‘Don’t be put off by the application, she advises. ‘Yes, it took me a couple of hours but it was an invaluable opportunity to reflect on what I have done, which we all have to do for re-registration.

‘It’s a great opportunity to celebrate what you have achieved and how you are making a difference. Don’t think that what you are doing isn’t big enough. Believe in the piece of work you are doing.’

Click here for more information and to enter

Award winners to be unveiled at London ceremony in July

The winners of the 2018 awards will be announced at a ceremony at the Park Plaza Hotel in Westminster on 4 July, and the RCN Nurse of the Year, chosen from the category winners, will be unveiled.

Melanie Davies. Picture: David Gee

Melanie Davies, a ward sister at Morriston Hospital in Swansea, was named RCN Nurse the Year 2017 for her work to improve care for people with learning difficulties in acute settings following the death of a patient on her ward.

Her care bundle and champions programme has been implemented throughout Wales.

She says: ‘I am still a bit overwhelmed by having won as I feel I was just doing my job. It is such an honour. It has given me experiences that other nurses would not have.’

She especially values the chance to raise awareness of the challenges faced by people with learning disabilities in acute settings and help health professionals address them.

Highlighting work of hospital staff

Melanie has discussed her work with senior politicians in Wales and England, including a breakfast meeting with Wales’ health minister Vaughan Gething, first minister Carwyn Jones and chief nursing officer for Wales Jean White, and attended a lobbying event in Westminster with the RCN.

She has been a guest speaker at conferences and has been invited to deliver teaching sessions to a wide range of care professionals.

‘It has been fantastic highlighting how hospital staff can transform care for people with learning disabilities,’ she says.

Top tips for entering the Nurse Awards

 RCNi editorial advisory board chair Caroline Shuldham on what makes a good application 

Patient focus

The main feature of all the finalists is that patients are at the centre of their work and they demonstrate a strong commitment, whether they decided to undertake the project or it had been allocated to them.   

The impact on patients is fundamental, for example when using a sepsis recognition tool for children in the emergency department or reducing emergency admissions from care homes to hospital. Finalists took charge, were pro-active and sometimes daring.

Clear categorisation

Good entries fit the criteria for the chosen category and follow the instructions clearly so the judges do not have to try to work out what happened. Your application should tell the story of what was done and the impact it had.  

It is worth remembering the reader will only know what you tell them, so time spent thinking about the message is important. Simple, straightforward language is best and it can be useful to seek feedback from a colleague. Where others were involved it helps the process of shortlisting if the role played by each person is stated. 

Simple evaluation

Several categories ask about challenges, evaluation and sharing best practice. Challenges are usually articulated well in most applications, but evaluation and sharing best practice less so. The best projects generally have evidence of their impact. This can include outcome measures, feedback or audit data on for example, patient safety, efficiency and effectiveness (including cost-effectiveness), or patient experience.  

Best practice has been disseminated through activities such as engaging with others to promote the change more widely within or beyond the organisation, teaching colleagues and students, writing articles and learning materials, or presenting at conferences.  


The Excellence in Cancer Research Award is sponsored by Cancer Research UK

This is a free article for registered users

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this? You can register for free access.