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RCNi Nurse Awards: the search for the best in mental health nursing is on

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The search for the best of the best in mental health nursing is underway with the launch of the RCNi Nurse Awards 2018, the profession’s top accolades.

The awards offer a chance to nominate a colleague or team for their outstanding contribution to care, or to share your own excellent practice with the wider nursing community. Winning can raise the profile of a specialty or the challenges faced by a particular service user group.

The 14 categories including Mental Health Practice are open to nurses registered to practise in the UK, nursing students and those working in health support roles; such as healthcare assistants and assistant practitioners.

Advanced practitioner Alan Wilmott (pink shirt) with the Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services team
Picture: Apex

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

Past winners

Last year’s winner of the Mental Health Practice Nurse Award was the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) workshop team at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust.

The team has developed and implemented a five-week programme of mental health workshops run for all parents whose child has received a mental health assessment

The Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services programme, designed by advanced practitioner Alan Wilmott, looks at:

  • What is meant by 'mental health'.
  • How to recognise good mental health in children.
  • How to support children when their mental health deteriorates.
  • Playful ways to engage with children and young people.

'Recognition was useful'

Mr Wilmott says: ‘For the clinicians involved – including me – it was amazing to get that recognition, that validation. It has been huge.

‘As clinicians you know your project works at one level, but we don’t often get great, grounded feedback that builds confidence and self esteem, so this award was amazing.’

As well as enjoying a positive reaction from management and the trust board, winning the award has been important for team morale.

‘It is easy to get lost in the pressures so this year winning made a real difference to us as a team,’ he says.

‘Everyone had a real lift and a sense that it is okay to be nominated and to talk about your achievements. At first we were uncomfortable, thinking "we don’t deserve this", but for one night it was amazing. For that night we were the celebrities.’


Watch: Mental Health Award winner Alan Wilmott describes his project


The awards are important to celebrate nurses’ and the profession’s achievements, he adds. ‘Seeing that huge range of programmes from all the finalists made you think: “Wow, there is so much going on out there”. So many nurses doing really great things, and over and above their paid role.’

Also a finalist last year was Jessica Wilson. She was highly commended for her work using oral storytelling to build therapeutic relationships in an Elysium Healthcare forensic unit.

She says: ‘Being highly commended at the Nurse Awards added credibility and gravitas to my work. Storytelling could seem a bit woolly to people, but being recognised by the awards showed that it is something that made sense to a lot of people and leading nurses.


Watch: Mental Health Award finalist Jess Wilson describes her highly commended project


‘The chief executive could see that this was being taken seriously by the profession and when I got back to work people were really impressed. I had colleagues asking me to explain storytelling and train them – it piqued people’s interest.’

Since being highly commended, Ms Wilson has been promoted to the post of hospital director. ‘I was reluctant to take the post at first as I wanted to pursue and develop the creative side of my practice. My regional director, who was at the awards night, realised this and as an incentive said I could give one day a week as a secondment to Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board to continue work with them in storytelling. I am the world’s first clinical nurse specialist for storytelling. It is so exciting.'

‘I absolutely recommend entering the Nurse Awards, even if you think your project is quite unusual, like mine,’ she adds. ‘It is worthwhile. It has given my work momentum – and me the courage – to carry on and develop it.’

As well as a category dedicated to showcasing innovation, clinical excellence and compassionate care in mental health nursing, there are categories for students and healthcare assistants/assistant practitioners.

Winners’ projects feature in RCNi’s journals – including Mental Health Practice – in print and online. Articles about the awards are freely available so they reach thousands of nursing colleagues. They raise the profile of particular patient groups or clinical areas, but also the nursing profession as a whole.

Six decades of nursing

Aileen Coomber, who won the Bank Nurse category in 2017, has been a mental health nurse for six decades.

‘I would definitely recommend nurses enter,’ she says, ‘and I was overwhelmed that my manager thought so highly of me that she put my name forward.

‘I enjoyed meeting so many wonderful and talented people, and the awards certainly raise the profile of nurses.

‘My Nurse Awards journey isn’t over yet. It has taught me so much about myself. I was able to stand up and be proud of who I am and what nursing is.’

Click here for more information and to enter

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.


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