Success at Nurse of the Year Awards

Pictured (L-R) are: Professor Sonja McIlfatrick, Ulster University, Donna McConnell, winner of the Nursing Research Award and Janice Smyth, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland.
Pictured (L-R) are: Professor Sonja McIlfatrick, Ulster University, Donna McConnell, winner of the Nursing Research Award and Janice Smyth, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland.

A number of local nurses have won awards at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Awards 2018 held recently in the Culloden Hotel, Holywood.

Donna McConnell from Portstewart, won the Nursing Research Award, sponsored by Ulster University. Donna was nominated for her research exploring person-centred practice within the Emergency Department. Whilst staff generally reported that they practised in a person-centred way, the research revealed poor care experiences for both patients and staff. Some patients reported being cared for in an environment in which their basic needs were often not met, while staff described distress at the level of care they were able, at times, to provide.

Pictured (L-R) are: Ed McClean, Public Health Agency and Health and Social Care Board, Bernie Carlin, winner of the Public Health Award and Janice Smyth, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland.

Pictured (L-R) are: Ed McClean, Public Health Agency and Health and Social Care Board, Bernie Carlin, winner of the Public Health Award and Janice Smyth, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland.

Donna, who is based at Ulster University, found a prioritisation of medical-technical care over fundamental nursing care, poor inter-departmental relationships, high use of bank, agency and locum staff, a lack of access to senior staff after 5.00pm, and what she describes as care designed around achieving “unrelenting targets”.

This research has highlighted the need to manage this influence of the wider health care system on the emergency department care environment, and emphasised that staff need to be supported to create an environment in which person-centred practice can flourish.

Bernie Carlin from Portstewart, won the Public Health Award, sponsored by the Public Health Agency and Health and Social Care Board. Bernie works as part of the Northern Trust’s family nurse partnership team, based in Ballymena. This is an early intervention programme for teenage mothers undergoing a first pregnancy and involves intensive home visiting from early pregnancy until the age of two, promoting improved pregnancy outcomes, enhanced child health and stronger parental well-being.

Bernie’s nominator pays tribute to the development of the young parents under her guidance and care. Some have a history of social services involvement and in many cases their children were placed on the child protection register at birth. All but one has now been removed from the register thanks to Bernie’s care and support.

Pictured (L-R) are: Louise Skelly, Patient and Client Council, Anne Phillips and Mary Kane, winners of the Patient's Choice Award and Janice Smyth, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland.

Pictured (L-R) are: Louise Skelly, Patient and Client Council, Anne Phillips and Mary Kane, winners of the Patient's Choice Award and Janice Smyth, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland.

Many of the children are exceeding their anticipated milestones and some of the young mothers are returning to education and employment. Bernie’s nominator says: “The positive feedback I have received is unprecedented. She carries out her work in a modest, unassuming manner, is non-judgmental and down to earth.”

Mary Kane, from Ballycastle, was joint winner (alongside Anne Philips from the South Eastern Trust) in the Patient’s Choice Award, sponsored by the Patient and Client Council. Based at Causeway Hospital, Mary’s nominator is a young woman who, in 2017, was required to use a colostomy bag due to Crohn’s disease and colitis. The patient describes how, in the period leading up to surgery, Mary continually checked in with her, providing great support both to her and her family.

She recognised that the patient was concerned about the impact of the procedure on her studies, with A-levels beginning just two months after the surgery. Mary made sure that everything was in place to enable the patient to return to school and sit her exams without detriment. Inspired by Mary, the patient is now determined to become a stoma care and inflammatory bowel disease nurse, currently preparing for university with Mary’s support, guidance and mentorship.

The patient adds: “Mary is more than a nurse; she is a friend. If it weren’t for her, I don’t know how things would have turned out. I would not have come out the other side without her support. If I can serve sick patients anywhere near as incredibly as Mary has treated me, I will be very happy.”

Pictured (L-R) are: Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary, RCN, Jackie Kearns who was commended in the RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Award and Fiona Devlin, Chair of the RCN Northern Ireland Board.

Pictured (L-R) are: Janet Davies, Chief Executive and General Secretary, RCN, Jackie Kearns who was commended in the RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Award and Fiona Devlin, Chair of the RCN Northern Ireland Board.

Kathy Goumas, Head of Addiction Service in the Northern Trust, was runner-up in the Inspirational Achievement in Addiction Services Award, sponsored by Addiction NI. Kathy’s nursing career in the field of addictions has spanned more than 30 years, during which she has played a leading role in the development of community and residential services for people who suffer from alcohol and drug dependencies. She was nominated for her success in improving accessibility and outcomes for service users. She has developed strong partnership working with primary care providers, criminal justice agencies, and voluntary and community organisations, and improvements Kathy has introduced have been adopted regionally.

The judging panel commended Kathy’s passion and her exceptional ability to develop and lead partnership working that brings about improved outcomes for service users.

Jackie Kearns from Dunloy, was commended in the RCN Northern Irealnd Nurse of the Year Award. Based at Antrim Area Hospital, Jackie was nominated for her success in improving patient experience and clinical outcomes through a new approach to the care of patients with inflammatory bowel disease. Her nominator describes Jackie as an ambassador for the nursing profession, referring to her passion for improving patient care and willingness to challenge traditional clinical practice.

The judging panel was impressed with how Jackie researched, audited and evaluated the initiative which has transformed the lives of patients and their families.

Commenting on the Awards, Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland, Janice Smyth said: “Chris Wamsley identified the impact that hospitalisation can have on patients who had been living independently at home. This initiative has made a huge difference to these patients, promoting dignity and person-centred care.

“The judging panel was highly impressed at how Chris engaged and supported staff, built a cohesive team and improved staff morale through an initiative that enhanced the quality of patient care and patient’s experience of care.

“This is the 22nd year of the Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Awards which have highlighted some of the best examples of nursing practice. Despite the wider health service continuing to face challenges, particularly during this period where there is a vacuum in political leadership, it is important to recognise and value the excellent care nurses provide to the people of Northern Ireland.

“Through these awards we have seen several examples that show clearly the contribution that nursing is making to health service transformation in Northern Ireland. I am extremely encouraged by the excellence and innovation shown by our finalists who are a credit to the nursing profession.”