Nurses’ time to shine: how to get started on your RCN Nursing Awards entry

Advice from winners, nominees and our chair of judges to help you celebrate your achievements

In the most challenging time in NHS history, the RCN Nursing Awards are back to recognise excellence in nursing and healthcare.

The 2021 awards acknowledge the outstanding efforts, commitment and achievements of the whole of the nursing profession over the past year, as the UK responded to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How to showcase your achievements or innovation

Advice on how to showcase your practice was offered in three recent webinars. The webinars – one of which can be viewed on RCNi’s YouTube channel– discussed the benefits of entering the RCN Nursing Awards, highlighted successful projects and offered practical tips on how to create an outstanding entry.

Past winners and finalists shared how the awards have raised their profile and that of their work or team, boosted their career and led to their work being replicated.

RCN Nurse of the Year 2020 Ana Waddington
RCN Nurse of the Year 2020 Ana Waddington Picture: Barney Newman

Ana Waddington, who was named RCN Nurse of the Year 2020, says: ‘It was truly unexpected and to happen in the midst of a pandemic came as both a surprise and a real gift. It really is an incredible feeling to be recognised for all the hard work you have put towards something you are passionate about.

‘You forget how much time and energy is spent on it, until you win the award and people are talking about it. It’s been a whirlwind since, meeting a huge amount of new people, and I’ve enjoyed helping other nurses feel empowered to take on their own projects.’

Award raised my project’s profile and boosted our numbers

Ms Waddington, who was an emergency department sister at Royal London Hospital, spent her own time and money setting up YourStance, an organisation that helps vulnerable young people deal with the impact of knife crime.

Its volunteer nurses, doctors and paramedics teach cardiopulmonary resuscitation, basic life support and haemorrhage control to young people at risk of youth violence.

‘During a pandemic, we have gone from having 150 to 200 volunteers,’ says Ms Waddington, who is now a trauma coordinator at the same hospital. ‘The award has raised the profile of the project. I have appeared on various media outlets and been interviewed on podcasts. It has really helped me work on how my project is represented.’

A YourStance workshop with young people and healthcare professional volunteers
A YourStance workshop with young people and healthcare professional volunteers Picture: Helen Rigby

She says being RCN Nurse of the Year has given her opportunities to share her work with nurses and other healthcare professionals.

‘I highly recommend nurses enter the awards – or put forward a colleague who deserves recognition. We should be celebrating our achievements. Everyone works incredibly hard and there are unique projects happening without the rest of the profession knowing about it.

‘It’s a great way to connect with other specialties, learn from them and develop your projects further. For example, I have been able to expand my project to different hospitals.’

More confident about sharing what I do

Child Health award winner Giselle Padmore-Payne
Child Health award winner Giselle Padmore-Payne: ‘It’s important to share our knowledge with other nurses’

Giselle Padmore-Payne, who won the Child Health category of the awards last year, agrees.

The Roald Dahl transition specialist nurse developed a programme for young people with sickle cell and thalassaemia blood disorders to move to adult healthcare services.

‘Winning the award has made a huge difference to my career and helped boost my confidence to share what I do – and it’s important to share our skills and knowledge with other nurses,’ she says. ‘Winning the award has been the pinnacle of my career.’

Sexual health nurse manager Sandra Bennett, who was a finalist in the leadership category in 2018, says nominees do not have to win their category to see a huge impact on their career and development.

‘Even though I didn’t win, I have since been invited to take part in webinars, conferences and careers events – even a podcast,’ she says. ‘It put my service on the map.’

Where to start: the judges’ tips for awards success

RCN Nursing Awards chair of judges Joanne Bosanquet, chief executive of the Foundation of Nursing Studies, offers some tips on how to get started and what the panel will be looking for:

Enter Put your work forward so it can be celebrated and others can learn from it.

Be proud Take credit for what you have done, as well as acknowledging your team's input.

Demonstrate impact Describe how the initiative or work has improved care and/or nursing practice, the profession itself or policy.

Evidence Show your evaluation – whether it’s an audit or participatory evaluation with your client group, include it in your entry submission.

RCN Nursing Awards webinar: How to put together an entry that stands out
RCN Nursing Awards chair of judges Joanne Bosanquet

‘Be bold’ – nominate your team or yourself

Awards chair of judges Joanne Bosanquet says: ‘Judging these awards is the highlight of my year.

‘These are powerful times. We are witnessing transformative growth of our profession, and innovation too. We know our communities. We focus on strengths and not deficits. We work with people and create space for collaboration.

‘This year is a year to celebrate our achievements as a global profession. It’s time to shine. Be brave and bold. Nominate your team, nominate yourself.’

RCN Nursing Awards 2021: list of categories plus how to enter