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'I am proud of the nurses who spend every day improving lives'

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It is exactly a week since the winners of the 2016 Nursing Times Awards were revealed at a ceremony on London, but I am still feeling a euphoric glow from the event – or more accurately, from the nurses I met that day.

The evening celebrates individual nurses and nursing teams’ projects to improve access to services and enhance safety and quality of care across a range of specialties, in both community and hospital settings.

Earlier the same day, HRH The Prince of Wales hosted a reception in his home in Clarence House for 90 of the finalists. He had earlier visited Imperial College Healthcare Trust for a hospital tour and to meet four of the awards finalists who work there.

During the awards ceremony I highlighted that most of nursing is done behind screens – either in a hospital or behind the walls in someone’s home. As a result, this often means nursing is done quietly and expertly without much notice being paid to it. And without it being talked about or celebrated. That’s why last Wednesday was so important – it shone a rare spotlight on the talent, knowledge and skill involved in nursing.

”That’s why last Wednesday was so important – it shone a rare spotlight on the talent, knowledge and skill involved in nursing”

Our awards seek to recognise nurses wherever they work, in whatever specialty and whatever care setting. Often you see the media covering stories of heroic healthcare rescues, nurses saving lives or caring for sick children. But there is more to nursing than just that. There are continence nurses that improve patients’ quality of life, district nurses who diligently tend to older peoples’ leg ulcers and infection prevention and control nurses who stop thousands of people getting sicker because of the scrupulous way they keep their care settings clean. But these nurses don’t make for a sexy headline, so they rarely get the recognition they deserve.

It is a privilege to get the opportunity to put that right and applaud some of the health professionals who do so much but get so little attention or gratitude.

”But these nurses don’t make for a sexy headline, so they rarely get the recognition they deserve”

It may be that nurses mostly provide care without much fuss and attention, but cut nursing and you notice the huge contribution that the profession makes to someone’s care and quality of life.

I met two nurses at the end of the evening who were struggling in their service. Severely under-resourced and unable to provide the care they went into the nursing to provide, they were constantly getting complaints from their patients and feeling demoralised.

Their story is a common one – nurses don’t want to be put in a position to give second-rate care, yet frequently they are squeezed so tight that it is impossible not to feel like they are prevented from doing their best for those they care for.

”An evening with nurses and seeing the fantastic contribution nursing makes reaffirmed their self-belief and conviction”

They both came to the Nursing Times Awards considering giving up nursing. But an evening with nurses and seeing the fantastic contribution nursing makes reaffirmed their self-belief and conviction, they said – even though they were shortlisted but didn’t win. They returned to their practice feeling re-motivated.

There is no better night in the nursing calendar – no wonder a week later I still feel proud of all those nurses that were shortlisted, and all those that won and all those that go out every day to make the lives of their patients and service users and residents safer and better. I hope wherever you are today that you are feeling proud too.

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