As the deadline for the Student Nursing Times Awards draws closer (2 March), Jenni Middleton offers up some tips on how to ensure your entry stands out from the crowd.
Writing an awards entry is a real skill. There’s someone on my team who enters about 10 awards a year, and always gets through to the finals (and has won several, too), while other friends of mine are only consistent in their failure to hit the spot.
So what are the judges looking for in Student Nursing Times Awards? Is it a game of chance or of skill?
Well, actually, it has a lot to do with how you present your entry - how you craft the words and the content. So here is some advice on how to propel your entry into the “must shortlist” pile:
1. Include everything the judges ask for
Entering an award is a bit like writing a job application - you should check and double check that you have included all the information that has been asked for. Now that may sound a bit obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve read awards entries that fail to enclose a significant fact or supporting evidence. If the awards criteria asks for two testimonials, provide two - not one, not three, not four, but two. If it wants 150 words, write 150 - not 300 or 50. Failure to include anything but what is asked for will make you look like you can’t follow instructions - and that is never good for a nurse. Once you’ve compiled your entry, read through the criteria again to check that you have supplied everything they want.
2. Be specific
As with a job application, you can’t just make vague statements of how brilliant you are without backing them up. For example, if you are trying to talk about your academic prowess, include results that show you are doing well. If you are claiming brilliant communication skills on the ward, talk about a time when you have resolved an issue or include a supporting statement from a clinical mentor. Don’t just say it, prove it.
3. Answer all the criteria
There will be a section listing the criteria - or what the judges are looking for. Make sure that your entry covers every one of those points. Use them as a subheading in your entry if you like to make sure you have covered each one - and do so thoroughly. Be methodical about going through the criteria and try and stretch yourself to think about how you can best provide evidence of being good at those aspects of your job or training that are listed. Don’t just write the first thing that comes into your head.
4. Think of the extraordinary
You’ll be up against a lot of other people who have done some of the things that you have done, so think of something you’ve been involved in that sets you apart. The judges will become fatigued by reading entries about the same clinical skills and academic accomplishments, so if you can tell them something about your achievements that will really make them sit up and take notice, then include it. What makes you stand out? What makes you really different and really deserving of this award? Just make sure you can give a compelling reason as to why that makes you a good nurse.
5. Get a friend or two to proofread
You’re not being tested on your grammar or spelling, but it won’t look very professional if you submit an entry that is littered with spelling mistakes or that doesn’t make sense. It will put the judges off reading further or just make them think you don’t care or don’t have high standards. It will pay to look professional from the get-go, so once you’ve scrutinised and re-read your entry, get a friend or two to read it over. It is surprising how much you miss by being really close to the entry and having worked on it for so long, and you’ll become unable to detect glaring typos or sentences that just end in mid-flow. Run a spellcheck (you can do this in Word and then cut and paste your entry into the online form) and look out for incomplete or very long sentences. Leave it for a few hours or even a day and then come back to it with fresh eyes to see if you can spot ways that you can rewrite things in order to make it clearer.
6. Deliver it on time
You need to be able to prove that you are professional enough to work under pressure and meet targets, so make sure your entry reaches the awards team on time. The deadline for the Student Nursing Times Awards is 2 March, so get writing now - and good luck!