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The nursing stars of 2015


This year has seen some real heroes of nursing. But while sports and showbiz stars and other high achievers are celebrated in primetime TV awards and accolades shows, nurses get less attention.

So here are my nursing stars of 2015. If you will, the alternative Nursing Times Awards.

The award for Getting Yourself Heard goes to the Royal College of Midwives. For the first time in its 133-year history, members went on strike over pay early this year. Midwives across the country took to the picket lines, picked up their placards and joined nurses to shout about why they deserved a pay rise.

And lo, the government took notice and a pay rise was delivered for most NHS staff. It may only have been a miserly 1%, but a rise nonetheless.

It’s early days but we think the students demonstrating against the end of bursaries could have a shot at scooping that award in 2016.

The Just Plain Exceptional award goes to the team at The Royal Free in London who looked after nurses returning from Africa with ebola. When we gave a Special Recognition Award out to the hospital at the Nursing Times Awards in November, Breda Athan, senior matron, spoke about how there was no shortage of nurses queuing up to offer their services to care for Pauline Cafferky and Anna Cross this year, and Will Pooley last year.

This is nursing at its best. Selfless. Caring. Going the extra mile.

We may have already given the Royal Free team an award at our event in November, but who is going to complain if we give them another? Because they’re worth it…

Best Nurse in a Leading Role is Janice Stevens CBE. Janice took the brave decision to leave her job at Health Education England so she could roll up her sleeves again to tackle Barts, the UK’s largest trust, as its interim chief nurse. The trust is in special measures, so you can see why this was a decision fuelled by courage.

Janice is a trusted pair of hands, having sorted out hospital-acquired infection rates and single-sex wards while at the Department of Health – both tough roles, which this leading lady rose to.

The award for Galvanising the Profession goes to Dr Elaine Maxwell, principal lecturer in leadership at London South Bank University. This year, she’s organised a series of debates on topics such as the 6Cs nursing strategy, and early in the new year will be organising a debate on the end of the student nurse bursary.

Elaine’s events have attracted no less than the Chief Nursing Officer for England, the chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing and a host of others to discuss what nursing is and isn’t and should and shouldn’t be, making these events a who’s who of nursing.

The award for Taking the Opportunity to Turn a Question into a Presentation at a Conference goes to Gail Adams, head of nursing at Unison. It really isn’t worth being in this shortlist if Gail is in it, so often does she triumph.

At the Chief Nursing Officer for England’s summit in December she asked Heath Secretary Jeremy Hunt to reconsider his removal of bursaries, concerned that it would affect diversity in the profession.

Trish Morris-Thompson has recently won an award for Woman of the Year already so she may not have room on her mantlepiece for another gong – but thankfully ours is virtual. And so the award for Making Sure People Know About Nurses Beyond the NHS goes to Barchester Care Homes’ Trish, simply for standing up and shouting loudly for the care sector and independents.

Best Exit gong goes to Peter Carter, outgoing chief executive at the Royal College of Nursing. He left in a seemingly endless of leaving dos, and gave one of the best leaving speeches ever – crafted by his HR director David Cooper.

Next up, the Just Go and Do It award. Chief nurse at Nottingham University Hospitals Mandie Sunderland bags the prize for her strategic procurement work, encouraging nurses to make savings by getting involved in clinical purchasing decisions to help trusts buy more consistently and cost-effectively.

She argues this saves money and lives because standardised equipment usage improves safety.

The award for Creating One of “Those” Moments goes to Karen Dawber, director of nursing and governance at Warrington and Halton NHS FT. At the Nursing Times Directors’ Congress in October, Karen led a standing ovation tribute to Sue Smith, director of nursing at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay for her turnaround of that trust after being brought in to lead the nursing team while the organisation was in special measures.

That leads us to the award for Superstar of the Year, which has to go to the aforementioned Sue Smith.

Sue left a successful trust to join Morecambe Bay at a truly difficult time for the trust. Kirkup was about to report on his inquiry into failings in the care of mothers and babies, and the trust was in special measures. If that wasn’t enough, the week after the trust came out of special measures, Sue had to contend with the devastating floods in Cumbria.

This involved tackling the challenges thrown down by her physical environment as effectively as she had met the difficulties of the cultural and financial environment. She did it, exhibiting the professionalism you’d expect from her.

She’s always been my hero, and has now become even moreso.

These stories should remind you that miracles aren’t just for Christmas – they exist all around us in nursing. Enjoy a wonderful festive break if you are having one, and our thanks to those of you working over the holidays.


Readers' comments (6)

  • HelloJenni. Im now trying to work on NT learning course which I have to do according to my employer . And I spend time trying go through but this course is not easy , difficult for me to go at the subject on those question , I herd first time some clinical terms in section on constipation - this like for doctor to know and I m not sure if they will know either . I m frustrated by that , because I work long shifts I do at home as well those course . Jenni I don't know who prepared all those section and question but I m fed up already . Maybe u have solution ? Kind regards Maria.

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  • Shining star and troll of 2015 Michael stone for making the most totally irrelevant comments!

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  • Maria Trzcinska

    Please ensure this individual is sent on a certified English and a communications course as well as basic UK nurse training and qualification before they are allowed anywhere near a patient!

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  • To me the nursing stars are those on the front line. Those who day after day miss breaks, work late, smile though its tough and they are tired. It is an honor and a privilege to work in a profession where give so much, every single day and enrich the lives of those they care for.

    I hope all of you have a wonderful New Year.

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  • Nursing Times

    Hi Maria Trzcinska,

    Thank you for your feedback. All our learning units are double-blind peer reviewed and written by experts in the field. They go through extensive testing to ensure the language and content is appropriate for nurses, however they are designed to increase knowledge so it is likely that parts of the unit will be new to you and not covered in undergraduate nurse training.

    If you do find the units too difficult to work through, it might be worth speaking to your employer about face-to-face learning which might help you to gain a broader base knowledge.

    Kind regards,
    Nursing Times

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  • michael stone

    30 DECEMBER, 2015 8:37 AM

    How can I be a nursing star, when I'm not a nurse ?

    Some people seem to 'like my stuff':

    I have grasped, that you [whoever you are] don't.

    I tend to agree with LINDA NAZARKO, for what its worth.

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