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A little professional recognition can make the tough times more bearable

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People can be slightly cynical about awards events. You know, all that clapping and voracious supporting of each other’s outstanding achievements can become wearing for some. But that never seems to happen in nursing awards. And I am glad about that.

This week, I’ve been to two awards ceremonies. The first, in Manchester’s Midland Hotel on Tuesday night, was the Flu Fighter Awards, organised by NHS Employers.

This annual event recognises individuals and teams that go the extra mile to ensure as many NHS staff as possible have the flu vaccine. The lengths some of these finalists go to are extraordinary. They orchestrate parodies of rock ballads, changing the lyrics to make them flu-relevant, act out popular TV sitcoms with flu themes, and transform epic Hollywood blockbusters to promote a flu message.

All that activity translated into the highest uptake of the vaccine since the Flu Fighter campaign and awards began in 2010 – 68% of staff had their flu jab, that’s 85,000 more than in the previous year.

When you consider that most Flu Fighter activity is on top of people’s day jobs, in an already stretched and busy working environment, you can see why these finalists deserve to celebrate their accomplishments – and they do that enthusiastically.

Another enthusiastic bunch of finalists was in fine voice yesterday lunchtime at the Hilton on Park Lane in London. This was our very own Student Nursing Times Awards, which this year saw a record number of entries and attendees. And that delights me because celebrating the accomplishments of students – and the people who teach and mentor them – is an utter privilege for me.

We created these awards seven years ago when some sections of the news media were trying to claim that the nursing degree was creating a generation of nurses who were “too posh to wash” and “too clever to care”.

“It’s ridiculous to suggest that a brilliant brain and a compassionate heart are mutually exclusive”

As I said in my speech at the event, it’s ridiculous to suggest that a brilliant brain and a compassionate heart are mutually exclusive. Being intelligent doesn’t make you a bad nurse – it makes you a better one.

The suggestion that nursing doesn’t require you to be smart just plays to the outmoded stereotype that nursing is little more than unskilled labour, the performance of a series of basic tasks with very little value.

Nursing is complex – it requires a distinct set of talents that involves emotional intelligence, empathy, kindness, knowledge, skills and expertise. To pretend it’s less than that is doing a huge disservice to the profession – and those it cares for.

“Too many media commentators feel compelled to knock nursing”

The Student Nursing Times Awards prove that being smart is an important part of nursing and providing safe, high-quality care.

One of the key aims of the awards is to instil in students a sense of pride in what they do at an early stage in their career. Too many media commentators feel compelled to knock nursing, knock the current system of education and knock the confidence and self-esteem of nurses entering the profession as a result.

Yesterday, you could almost taste the joy at becoming a nurse, and the pride felt at that achievement.

It is worth celebrating what students and qualified nurses do – at our awards, at the Flu Fighter awards or just day to day. Nurses and midwives do something incredible with their working lives, and we should not begrudge them the odd bout of fist pumping and back slapping.

These celebrations might just offset some of the inevitable tough times when it’s emotionally and physically gruelling to get through their days.

So let’s not be cynical about the celebrations – let’s embrace them, enjoy them and add to the rapturous applause. Our nurses and midwives deserve it.

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