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Western Trust Nurses honoured in the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year 2023 Awards


Rita Devlin; Heather Trouton; Cathy Glass; David Robinson at the 2023 RCN Nursing Awards

Congratulations to Cathy Glass, Nursing Services Manager, Trauma and Orthopaedics at Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry/Londonderry winner of the Directors of Nursing Award along with Karen Harper and Helen McCormick, Cancer Lung Specialist Nurses at the North West Cancer Centre who were runners up in the Patient’s Choice Award category and Angela McKeever, Macmillan Service Improvement Lead at the North West Cancer Centre who was runner up in the Research Nurse of the Year Award category.

Cathy has made an exceptional commitment to improving and developing services for people requiring orthopaedic surgery in the Western Trust. As nursing service manager for trauma, orthopaedics and fractures – Cathy’s nomination focuses on her exceptional commitment to improving and developing services for people requiring orthopaedic surgery, either electively or as the result of trauma. She has been instrumental in securing investment that has enabled her to develop the service and improve nurse staffing levels, all of which have contributed to enhanced outcomes for patients. Cathy has also collaborated with other services to develop care pathways that have improved access to timely and appropriate patient care. She has secured investment in practice education and quality improvement to support learning and development and thereby enhanced the recruitment and retention of staff within orthopaedic services.

Cathy leads and represents the Western Trust across many regional work streams aimed at improving access to orthopaedic services. She has worked relentlessly to maximise the use of available resources, particularly through the new day case theatres at Altnagelvin Hospital, and through the development of out-patient services throughout the Trust. Cathy’s nominator highlights how she cares deeply about patients, colleagues and the unit, adding:

“Cathy has been instrumental in resetting the service. Her professionalism, knowledge, and passion for trauma and orthopaedic nursing is greatly admired and respected by all her nursing, medical and manager colleagues. A colleague comments: “Cathy has always made time for all of the staff and is very approachable. She is patient centred and has been a strong advocate for patients. I particularly admire her persistence and resilience in such tough times that we face.” The judging panel described Cathy as “an excellent role model” and commended her patient-centred approach to her role and responsibilities.”

Karen and Helen have been recognised for their outstanding and sensitive care for a patient who was also a senior colleague in the North West Cancer Centre. Angela’s research has helped improve services for people with head and neck cancers and their families.

Karen Harper and Helen McCormick, Lung clinical nurse specialists. Karen and Helen are based in the North West Cancer Centre and were nominated by a patient who was also a senior colleague in the centre and had been diagnosed with lung cancer earlier this year. She explains how Karen and Helen supported her and her family through this life-changing diagnosis. The patient describes how they guided her through diagnostic procedures, always with a person-centred approach and how they listened to what mattered to her at each stage of the journey as part of a holistic needs assessment. Referrals were made to support the patient’s family, as her primary concern was how she would share the traumatic news with her children. At each appointment, Karen and Helen have been at her side, quietly observing for signs of when support was required, reinforcing information in a manageable way, and knowing when silence was all that was required. At her first chemotherapy session, Karen arrived with gifts to help the patient through the 10-hour treatment. She was available at the end of the session to advise how to access help, and to check that a safe care pathway was in place. The patient concludes:

“I am in awe of how professionalism and compassion has been demonstrated towards me in what must be a very challenging and difficult time for both nurses. The kindness, love and compassion shown to me in abundance by Karen, Helen and the team will help me navigate these new steps, I hope, for a little more time.” The judging panel was impressed with the respectful ways in which Karen and Helen involved the family in decision-making and put the interests of the patient first.

Rita Devlin; Karen Harper Helen McCormick; Donna Duffy at the 2023 RCN Nursing AwardsAngela McKeever, is a clinical nurse specialist in head and neck oncology since 2012 at the North West Cancer Centre. Angela was passionate about improving care for this vulnerable patient group and their families. She therefore resolved to explore this area further as part of her self-funded MSc research project. Angela’s study aimed to explore perceptions about the development of an online resource to inform decision-making and provide post-treatment support for patients with head and neck cancer, and their relatives. Her research methodology included a series of one-to one interviews in one health and social care trust in Northern Ireland. Angela was able to demonstrate the importance of readily accessible and person-centred information in enabling patients and their families to understand the journey ahead, as well as promoting decision-making and coping. Equally, family members need information, knowledge and support to equip them for a new role as care providers. Angela’s research indicates that, in an era of e-health and internet access, there is a need for high quality online patient and family-centred information to promote shared decision-making, self-management, and coping from diagnosis to living with and beyond cancer. Angela is keen to help empower health care professionals through dissemination of her findings to equip them with the knowledge required to provide better support to family members. Her findings have also been presented at a range of local, regional and international meetings and conferences. Angela’s nominator praises her dedication and passion, commenting:

“She is part of the growing generation of nurses who combine both academic and clinical skills to shape and deliver responsive and high-quality evidence-based care”.

Rita Devlin; Tracy Miller; Donna Fitzsimons at the 2023 RCN Nursing AwardsTracy Miller (from Castlederg), a third year student at Ulster University, Magee, was runner-up in the Student Award sponsored by Queen’s University, Belfast. Tracy was nominated for a series of initiatives to promote inclusion and raise awareness of how nursing practice can impact upon the LGBTQ+ community. She organised a webinar and designed a series of fact sheets explaining terminology and providing information on youth support services, training for schools and counselling services. Feedback has been exceptional. The judging panel was impressed with Tracy’s passion and commitment to enhancing equality, diversity and inclusion.

Western Trust Chief Executive Neil Guckian said:

“ I am delighted for Cathy, Karen, Helen and Angela for their well-deserved recognition in this year’s RCN NI Nurse of the Year Awards. They are all exceptional nurses who are passionate about delivering the highest quality of care for their patients. We are immensely proud of our incredible nursing teams across the Western Trust and we are very fortunate to have them recognised for their leadership, development, research and improvement of services for our patients and their families who require care and treatment in our hospitals. We in the Western Trust are immensely proud of you all on receiving this richly deserved recognition.”

“Here in the Western Trust, we see the amazing work being carried out every day by Nurses, Health Visitors, Midwives and Healthcare Assistants and the RCN awards are an excellent opportunity to highlight this and on the behalf of the Western it is an honour for me to pass on my congratulations to our winners in this year’s RCN NI Awards. Thank you for your continued dedication and innovation to improving patient care. Well done.”

The Western Trust celebrated a triple achievement at the awards as our Lung Cancer Nurse Specialists Karen Harper and Helen McCormick received runners up in the Patient’s Choice Award and Angela McKeever, Macmillan Service Improvement Lead received runner up in the Research Nurse of the Year category.

Speaking about the Western Trust’s success at the 2023 RCN NI Nurse of the Year Awards, Executive Director of Nursing and Director of Primary Care and Older Peoples Services with the Western Trust, Donna Keenan, said: “I am absolutely thrilled and immensely proud of Cathy receiving the Directors of Nursing Award. Cathy is an exemplary lead nurse and head of service and is extremely passionate about orthopaedic care and I wish to extend my congratulations to Cathy and her wonderful team at Altnagelvin Hospital.

Rita Devlin; Angela McKeever; Neal Cook at the 2023 RCN Nursing Awards“I also wish to congratulate Karen, Helen and Angela in the North West Cancer Centre at Altnagelvin Hospital for being named runners up in the Patient’s Choice Award and Research Nurse of the Year Award respectively.

“Karen and Helen has been recognised for their compassionate care to a patient who was also their senior colleague. I have no doubt their professionalism and exceptional nursing care brought an immense comfort and support to their wonderful colleague as she experienced her cancer journey as a patient. Karen and Helen your kindness and empathy are outstanding and I am very proud that you have received this award.

“Angela has been recognised for her research work in helping to improve services for patient receiving treatment at the North West Cancer Centre for head and neck cancers. This important research will help to deliver better treatments for our patients and their families and will have improved patient outcomes for the future. I wish Angela continued success both professionally and academically.”