Tips on achieving Nurse Awards success

RCNi Nurse Awards 2018 is open for entries. One of the judges, Caroline Shuldham, offers some advice on making sure your project stands out

RCNi Nurse Awards 2018 is open for entries. One of the judges, Caroline Shuldham, offers some advice on making sure your project stands out

The launch of the RCNi Nurse Awards 2018 is here, so it is time to think about applying or nominating a colleague for an award.

Awards are a great way of showcasing your work so others can learn from you, as RCNi features the finalists and their projects online and in print in Nursing Standard and its stable of specialist nursing titles. This provides national recognition and the chance to influence practice on a larger scale.

I was a judge for the 2017 Nurse Awards and was impressed with the applicants and the quality and range of work from all parts of our profession.

Projects included changes to improve patient flow and reduce late transfers of patients with dementia in hospital, end of life care for people living in a hostel, mental health workshops for parents and a vaccination programme for schoolchildren over a wide geographical area.

What makes a good application

As well as registered nurses, nursing students presented fantastic work, such as addressing mental health problems in young people or working with victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, demonstrating best practice and work above and beyond what might be expected of those yet to qualify for registration.

Healthcare assistants’ projects were varied, from taking blood specimens to shouldering responsibility for extra duties, going above and beyond what is usually expected.

Watch: Fellow RCNi Nurse Awards judge Alison Dinning reveals what goes into selecting a winner


So what makes a good application? 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 if 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.

Drew McDonald
Senior staff nurse Drew McDonald, winner of
the child health award at the 2017 RCNi 
Nurse Awards, was featured on
the cover of Emergency Nurse. 

Finalists took charge, were go-ahead and sometimes daring.

Each one recognised a problem, an opportunity for improvement, took the initiative and had the imagination to see what could be done. They designed innovations, found solutions and implemented them even when the going got tough.

Projects were not completed in a week or two. They were the result of tenacity, professionalism and sustained effort over time, such as the veterans’ passport, a multiagency record of care.  

Applicants engaged others and had to influence colleagues and sometimes overcome resistance.

It was impressive that many of the nurses worked outside their own specialty – for example, a hospital nurse won the community award.

The RCN Nurse of the Year is a hospital ward sister who won the learning disabilities category for the changes she made, in collaboration with the family of a patient who had died, to the care of patients with a learning disability.

The best innovations were responsive to and involved patients and families.

In all this, the judges were conscious that we were seeing just the tip of the iceberg, and that there is so much more good practice that could be showcased, so we are hoping for even more applications this year. You could be one of them – or you might like to nominate a colleague or a team.

Diane Palmer, of North Essex Partnership NHS Trust, winner of the
2017 Innovations in Your Speciality award.
Picture: Mark Hakansson

Tell the story

Entries should fit the criteria for the chosen category and follow the instructions clearly. Your application should tell the story of what the team or individual has done and the impact their project has had.

It’s worth remembering that 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. Several categories ask about challenges, evaluation and sharing best practice. I have found most applications articulate the challenges well, but evaluation and sharing best practice less so.

The best projects generally can show evidence of their impact. This may include outcome measures, feedback or audit data on, for example, patient safety, efficiency and effectiveness – including cost-effectiveness – or patient experience.

Disseminating best practice

Sharing best practice can be shown 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 making presentations at conferences.

sharon foy
Sharon Foy (centre) with her secondary breast cancer nurse specialist team at The Christie
NHS Foundation Trust​​​​ in Manchester. The team won the Cancer Nursing
category at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2017. Picture: John Houlihan

The awards are designed to recognise nurses from many spheres and to share good practice in the profession, most importantly for the benefit of patients and their families. Some nurses reading this will immediately have the confidence to apply and should do so, but I know there are many who will not.

If that’s you, review the project, change or innovation that you have implemented, the examples I have given and the categories for the RCNi Awards 2018, and ask yourself if you could apply. Is there a colleague or team you wish to nominate? Have a look at the information here, get help from colleagues if needed and complete the application.

Caroline Shuldham is chair of the RCNi editorial advisory board

For more information and to enter visit nurseawards.co.uk

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