The winner of this year’s Chief Nursing Officers’ Lifetime Achievement Award was Elizabeth Nneka Anionwu.
As she took to the stage at the Nursing Times Awards, the crowd stood, applauded, and then hushed – anxiously awaiting her response to this significant accolade.
Professor Anionwu’s shoulders just peeked over the edge of the podium, behind which she stood to deliver her speech, revealing her small stature. She adjusted the microphone, pulling it downwards to meet her lips, and spoke. “When I heard the news [about winning the award], I had shivers down my spine,” she said.
Her voice rolled over the crowd and expanded across the room. It gently commanded attention. She seemed to grow five inches.
All the nurses in the audience, I am sure, had shivers down their spine. I know I did, as I sat at our round, candlelit staff table – littered with emptied glasses, and half eaten deserts – listening to Prof Anionwu’s speech in rapture.
”It’s hard not to be physically affected by the emotion and honour that permeates the Nursing Times Awards”
Truthfully, it’s hard not to be physically affected by the emotion and honour that permeates the Nursing Times Awards. This year’s being my first, I must admit that I had trouble remembering to update the Nursing Times Twitter account, as was my job during the ceremony, due to the captivating sense of gratitude the winners exuded as they accepted their awards onstage. These nurses’ graciousness and modesty in accepting their accolades was truly moving, and might be the root of Prof Anionwu’s shivers – I think it was the cause of mine.
Indeed, under the satin and lace, the bowties and jewellery, the fake lashes and ecstatic smiles, which all awards ceremonies generate, this particular ceremony has a solid gold core. The shortlisted for awards, and the organisations that sponsor them, are all committed to improving others’ lives.
“Over 800 nurses buzzed about the room; enjoying the celebration and chatting about their respective positions”
This dedication and achievement reverberated through the Great Hall of the Grosvenor House Hotel on Wednesday evening as over 800 nurses buzzed about the room; enjoying the celebration and chatting about their respective positions.
Before Prof Anionwu’s speech, Jane Cummings, the CNO for England, said a few words, touching on the tangible differences nurses in the room – and across the health service - make through their work. She began by acknowledging that everyone in the audience should be “very, very proud” to be nurses, and went on to explain that just by devoting their lives to the profession, “Every one [of the attendees] is a winner, every one is a pioneer.”
”If nothing else, the Nursing Times Awards ceremony is a chance to celebrate and uplift a profession that is, at times, starved of thanks”
If nothing else, the Nursing Times Awards ceremony is a chance to celebrate and uplift a profession that is, at times, starved of thanks. And simple appreciation matters. In fact if you really want to know what difference the NT Awards make, two nurses told Nursing Times editor Jenni Middleton that they had been planning to leave the profession, but the ceremony had changed their minds.
It is also a space in which leaders of the field can inspire and learn from those just starting out in the profession and those who have a few years’ nursing practice behind them.
Personally, as an intern at Nursing Times, I feel that my first awards led me to realise that, glittering stage and flashing lights aside, the ceremony is, above all, a tribute to the tireless work of nurses throughout the UK.
And, I can think of few groups more deserving of this praise.