Judging the RCNi Nurse Awards has made me so proud of our profession

Every finalist shows what a huge difference excellent nurses can make

Every finalist shows what a huge difference excellent nurses can make

Over several days in May, I was privileged to be a member of the panel that listened to presentations and interviewed the finalists in the RCNi Nurse Awards 2018.

The skills of the nurses, the range and depth of their work and their commitment to the best patient care was inspiring. Colleagues on the panel spoke of it being a treat and an honour to talk to these nurses, and how listening to each describe their work gave such a positive picture of nursing today and for the future. It was an uplifting experience.

Awards judging panel chair Caroline Shuldham: ‘The finalists combine innovation with the ability to put ideas into practice.’ Picture: David Gee

Finalists came from many sectors and nursing specialties including emergency, community, mental health and learning disabilities, children and older people and from all the UK countries. We talked to registered nurses, healthcare support workers and students in services as diverse as hospital specialist care, care homes, telephone advice lines and police forensic custody.  

Professionals not satisfied with their comfort zone

Whether individuals or in teams, these nurses had one thing in common – they had improved care for patients or carers, often stepping outside their comfort zone to tackle difficult issues. Many were nominated by colleagues, who frequently described their nominees as enthusiastic, dedicated, committed and respected. We witnessed all these characteristics during the selection process. 

We heard about initiatives to encourage greater physical activity for babies, adults to exercise together as part of a walking group and teams to learn about managing trauma by using a specially made film. Along with tailor-made home services for people with sickle cell disease, there were bereavement services for parents following the sudden death of a child or young person, QR (quick response) codes to access guidelines in emergency departments and specialist arrhythmia clinics for people with heart rhythm disorders. In a couple of places the services had been improved to such an extent that performance was recognised as outstanding by England's Care Quality Commission.

‘Their innovations are testament to the imagination and ground-breaking work of nurses, combined with their practical ability to put ideas into practice’

Care home residents, acutely ill hospital patients, homeless people, the vulnerable and those with dementia, among others, have all benefitted from the projects. There was research too, developing the evidence on which further good practice can rest. Interestingly the Innovations in your Specialty category attracted the largest number of entries – testament to the imagination and groundbreaking work of nurses, combined with their practical ability to put ideas into practice. 

Sharing good practice

Finalists’ curiosity and creativity provided a wonderful counterbalance to headlines about poor practice. Evaluation of projects was generally robust, perhaps reflecting the need to provide evidence about patient experience and health outcomes. The nurses shared good practice by giving their time to others, accommodating visits from colleagues and presenting in teaching sessions or at conferences, so that others might learn from their experience and emulate their initiatives.  

Some of the work has already been used to inform health policies and priorities more widely, such as the recent World Health Organization consultation about non-communicable diseases.

‘Each finalist is a fantastic example to us all and has made a great difference to the people in their care’

We were all inspired by the nurses we saw and know there are many more excellent nurses behind the scenes who were not shortlisted and whom we therefore did not meet. It is a positive story suggesting many areas of nursing are vibrant and reproducible.

On 4 July, we will celebrate the finalists’ achievements at the RCNi Nurse Awards ceremony. Each person, whether they win their category or not, should feel confident they are a fantastic example to us all and have made a great difference to the people in their care. The quality of all these nurses is outstanding and each of the panel was impressed and proud of our profession.

Having resolved challenges they face today these nurses have set a strong foundation for tomorrow. 

Caroline Shuldham is chair of the RCNi editorial advisory board and an independent adviser on research, teaching and mentoring. She chaired the RCNi Nurse Awards judging panel



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