Nurse of the Year 2015 Amanda Burston explains the benefits of entering the Nurse Awards and how to improve your chances of success.  

The Nurse Awards are open for entries again, giving everyone a chance to share their innovative ideas and passion for patient-focused care. The aim is to showcase the dedication and commitment of our acute and community teams.

In 2014 I applied for the awards, for a domestic violence project called Safer Steps. Set up in our emergency department, the service has now reached hundreds of survivors of abuse and also trained many staff. 

After applying for the Nurse Awards I was disappointed not to be shortlisted. I believed Safer Steps was a worthy project, met all the criteria for innovation and had the potential to change lives. 

Raised profile 

However, though unsuccessful, applying for the Nurse Awards raised the profile of the project. Nursing Standard ran an article showcasing Safer Steps. This encouraged the team, brought national interest and contacts, and enabled Safer Steps to develop and improve. 

The team and the victims of abuse I was representing deserved representation, and with momentum growing, I applied for the 2015 awards. 

This time Safer Steps was shortlisted, and I was invited to sit before a panel of judges at the Savoy Hotel in London to showcase it. I was asked to share details of the project with the RCN president, a clinical commissioning group chief nurse and the NHS England patient experience professional lead. 

This was an impressive audience, and I had a responsibility to my team and to the victims of domestic abuse to tell our story, share our project and raise awareness of domestic abuse. 

Double win 

I was delighted and shocked to win the 'Innovations in Practice Award' category. At the end of the evening, I was also awarded the Nurse of the Year 2015, which was overwhelming.

It is not always clear how you can affect the lives of victims of domestic abuse, and I knew this was a chance to make a difference.

In 2015, many opportunities presented themselves. I was able to engage with peer groups and share Safer Steps, and was invited to contribute to the development of local trust policy for staff and patients affected by domestic abuse.  

Nurses are incredible, often working above and beyond the call of duty, often working in their own time, maintaining the commitment and high standards of care in difficult conditions. 

I was asked to contribute to the RCNi journals, joining the Emergency Nurse editorial advisory board. I also received an invitation to attend a domestic abuse conference at the National Centre for the Study and Prevention of Violence and Abuse. 

Plenty of opportunities 

This conference allowed me to meet the team at SafeLives, who I have continued to work with, particularly on the THEMIS research project. 

I was also involved with BBC Panorama, advising on future projects, appeared on the Paul O‘Grady show as part of International Nursing Day, and have been a guest speaker for the Townwomen's Guild, who covered my story in their quarterly journal. 

There have been invites to attend the RCN awards in London, the RCN 100-year celebration hosted at the Houses of Parliament and the Inspirational Women and NHS Hero events in Staffordshire. All of these were opportunities to network and share a passion for protecting victims of abuse. 

For the 2016 Nursing Awards, I was invited to be a part of the shortlisting process. I was truly staggered and inspired by my colleagues across the UK, and the projects you all believe in and are passionate about.

Incredible teams 

Nurses are incredible, often working above and beyond the call of duty, often working in their own time, maintaining the commitment and high standards of care in difficult conditions. 

During the presentations, I met several finalists who shared their projects, and each one offered an outstanding contribution to improving patient care and safety. There was diversity, ambition and an overwhelming ‘can-do’ attitude – no obstacle would stop any nurse on a mission. 

My time as Nurse of the Year ended in May 2016, but the momentum continues. In June, I presented a resolution at the RCN congress in Glasgow, where I asked for lobbying to improve domestic abuse education in healthcare.

Just the beginning 

Following the successful resolution, I have been invited to work with an RCN team to develop a web-based resource for staff, and pocket guides with information on domestic abuse services.

From attending this group, I was invited to attend the All Party Parliamentary group, who discussed the effects of BREXIT on victims of domestic abuse. 

During the event at the House of Commons, I met Royal College of Emergency Medicine president Cliff Mann. He invited me to present at the college's scientific conference in Bournemouth in September, allowing me to share knowledge and experience with delegates. 

The award process is just the beginning of the journey. It is a platform to share, grow, network and improve all projects. In 2014, our project was not shortlisted, but this didn’t stop us. In fact, it probably strengthened our determination to be successful.  

Everything to gain

On 17 October, I will be a guest at the Women of the Year lunch in London. I feel immensely privileged to be considered to attend this event, and ITV are filming me in the run up to it.

I hope everyone fully understands the opportunities the Nurse Awards process can bring, with a little application, dedication and commitment. 

I urge everyone to nominate a project, a team, or themselves in the 2017 awards. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain, and it will help you make a difference. 

One door opens, and leads to another and another. Good luck everyone! 

Amanda Burston is an emergency nurse at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust

Read more about the Safer Steps project here.

For more information on the Nurse Awards go to

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