Local nurses win awards at the Royal College of Nursing

LOCAL nurses have won awards at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Awards 2024 held at the Culloden Hotel last week.

Cathy Armstrong, from Bangor, won the Public Health Award, sponsored by the Public Health Agency. Cathy was nominated for developing the Care Navigator Project within the emergency department at the Ulster Hospital. Patients with complex social issues can be vulnerable leading to increased attendances as complex issues are unable to be addressed. Cathy provides early intervention to support marginalised patients. The project has reduced visits by frequent attenders and Cathy has built partnerships with over 30 different voluntary and community networks to provide ongoing support. Her nominator said: “Cathy is truly deserving of this award. Her passion and dedication to provide a service that ensures person-centred therapeutic interventions and improving the well-being of patients, is inspiring.”

Joan Newberry, from Holywood, was runner-up in the Patient’s Choice Award, sponsored by the Patient and Client Council. Joan is a school nurse at Friends’ School in Lisburn and was nominated by a number of students for her dedication, passion, and excellence in nursing, and providing exceptional care to pupils. Her clinic is regarded as a safe space for those who need it throughout the school day. Two pupils describe how Joan supports those experiencing mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and panic attacks. One pupil wrote: ‘She has been our rock and saviour’, while another praises her outstanding care for a pupil with cancer who had suffered a pulmonary embolism, adding: “I owe her my life”. The final nomination says that “Joan’s presence is the heartbeat of our school’s well-being. Her nurturing demeanour creates a sanctuary, where students find comfort and reassurance. Joan’s unwavering commitment to excellence ensures that no obstacle is too great and no challenge too daunting in her pursuit of the best outcomes for pupils.”

Angela Reed, Chief nursing and midwifery information officer at the South Eastern Trust was runner-up in the Brownlee-Silverdale Leadership Award. Throughout her career, Angela has excelled as a nurse leader, demonstrating vision and innovation while keeping nursing and patients central to her work. In her current role she has influenced across all disciplines and professions to lead the implementation of the new encompass system across the South Eastern Trust and the development of a framework for digital safety. Angela’s nominator says: “Not only did she develop and lead her digital nursing team through a very challenging period, through a compassionate and positive approach she led the entire nursing family through the project.”

Rachel Belshaw, from Dundonald, was runner-up in the Digital Innovation in Nursing Award, sponsored by Digital Health and Care, Northern Ireland. Based in the South Eastern Trust, Rachel was nominated for her work in relation to Barcode medication administration which is a process that involves scanning both the barcode on a patient’s identity band and the barcode on the patient’s prescribed medication. Working alongside others, Rachel began to establish what has now been cited as the most successful BCMA implementation across the UK.  More than 400 nurses have attended demonstrations of the system and associated training sessions and she is sharing her expertise with others. Her nominator says: “Rachel leads with her heart, a desire to be the best she can be and to seek better outcomes for patients” while the judging panel recognised her professional approach, transformative leadership style, approachability and enthusiasm.

Health Minister Mike Nesbitt paid tribute to the nursing profession. He said: “I want to thank all of you for your contribution to our health service and I am delighted to pay tribute to some of the extraordinary individuals within the nursing profession. You play such a positive role in the lives of so many here in Northern Ireland.

“Your hard work fully deserves the recognition that this awards ceremony brings and I was truly honoured to be part of the RCN Nurse of the Year celebrations.  I and my department are committed to supporting and valuing our nurses and health care support workers, and providing them with the respect, resources and recognition they so rightfully deserve.”

RCN Northern Ireland Executive Director, Rita Devlin added: “Edith has made a huge impact in leading and developing this service for patients with this type of heart failure. This nurse-led service is an outstanding example of the ways in which nurses across Northern Ireland are providing services which they have designed, and which are improving patient care. Edith’s commitment to her patients is inspirational.

“Each year these awards showcase the skills and expertise we have in Northern Ireland and how nursing staff are striving to deliver the highest quality care and service to patients.
“Many congratulations to all our finalists who have demonstrated the very best of nursing in Northern Ireland.”