RCNi Nurse Awards - 6th May 2016 - Westminster Park Plaza, London

The Patient's Choice Award

Click the “vote now” button for the nurse you wish to win the award.

You have until midnight on Friday 28th April to cast your vote.

Joanna O'Toole

A. Joanna O'Toole

Respiratory Specialist Nurse, Central Manchester University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

Jo gives truly personalised, kind care to our whole family

Lesley Chan has nominated children's respiratory nurse specialist Jo O'Toole for putting a smile on her daughter Amlie's face and offering unwavering support despite her own battle with cancer

Mum Lesley Chan has nominated her daughter's wonderful and courageous respiratory specialist nurse for the comfort, support and compassion she has shown the family, even while terminally ill herself.

Jo Toole has looked after Amlie, who has a rare syndrome, for about four years. Jo makes me feel safe, she knows our girl so well, says Lesley.

Jo has stayed on after her shift finished many times to sit with my family and provide compassionate care, says Lesley.

She is always positive and offers adult company in what can be a lonely hospital world.'

Finer details
Lesley appreciates how Jo has always included Amlie's three siblings and always asks about each one. 'More importantly she remembers their stories and journeys and will ask for updates months later, says Lesley. The fact that she can remember all the finer details of previous visits shows that she truly listens and cares about all our family and not just Amlie. Jo rings home to provide updates, chases every result and always finds the family in A&E.

And she makes a plan, says Lesley, adding: Jo then checks on us later and ensures the nursing teams are following the plan. Jo arranged all their intravenous medications for home, keeping the family at home together and Amelie as well as she can be.

Raise a giggle
Jo's sense of fun has been invaluable. She makes us all laugh. She has a silly dance and wears a smile 24/7. Amlie is profoundly deaf and partially sighted, so she relies on facial expression and Jo knows how to raise a giggle and bring her sense of humour out every time. She never fails.

We are never made to feel rushed and she stays hours after she should have gone home. I've often said "go home Jo, your family need you". She always replies: "My girls are grown ups and Jim won't mind, he knows what I'm like."

The family is devastated that Jo now has her own battle.

Having been ordered by doctors to retire from her role at Royal Manchester Children's Hospitals after more than 38 years as a children's nurse she was not expected to see Christmas. Jo visited Lesley to say goodbye as they work at the same trust. She said she could not go without a hug. She was so calm and smiled throughout. In fact I've never seen her without her smile.

I don't know how we will manage without her no longer overseeing Amlie's care, and I will feel empty without Jo in all our lives. I sincerely hope Jo gets the recognition she deserves for being so special and that her exceptional care is acknowledged before she passes away. It would be a wonderful way to say thank you to Jo for delivering the truly personalised, kind care all nurses should.

What a credit to the NHS she is.

Jo has just reluctantly retired under doctors' orders from her role but is still volunteering on her ward twice a week, playing with children and giving parents a break. She says: I have loved every minute of my 39 years nursing the children, their families and the people I have worked with.

It made me very tearful to think that someone wrote those words about me. You have to give the care you would want for your family no half measures. It was so lovely of Lesley to do it and it has been lovely for my family to read it and see me being recognised.

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Karen Coutts

B. Karen Coutts

Deputy Ward Sister - Mental Health, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust

My exceptional nurse saved my life and taught me how to save myself

Alexandra Elkington has nominated amazing Karen Coutts for helping her move forward despite her challenging mental health diagnosis.

Karen Coutts was the first person to get it, to truly understand. She was the first person to think outside the box, and work with me as an individual rather than the label I had been given.

When I first met Karen, I was at the lowest point of my life. I was closed to the idea of being nursed or cared about, and I was closed to the idea of help and recovery, I was hopeless.

Alexandra Elkington paints a bleak picture of living with her diagnosis of dissociative identity disorder until she met deputy ward sister Karen Coutts in an inpatient unit last April.

Karen cared about me, says Alexandra. She spoke to me because she wanted to speak to me, not just because it was her job.

Alexandra had been diagnosed six years previously but had made little progress.

Karen was the first person to engage and interact with the other 'alters', and through trial and error and positive risks, she made more progress with me in five months, than in the previous six years.

Crucially, she helped the other nurses and support workers to understand Alexandra's diagnosis, and as a team they supported her and gave her the tools she needed to help myself.

Karen transferred to Ormskirk Hospital but she returned on a bank shift to discharge me from that admission and complete that chapter of the journey with me, says Alexandra.

Since then Alexandra has been readmitted a few times, but for weeks rather than months.

I truly believe that without Karen's input I would be in a secure forensic unit, or even worse, no longer be alive, she says. On a couple of these readmissions I have found myself in the hospital where Karen now works and again she leads the team in working with me and helps them to understand. She gets me back on my feet.

All of the patients respect her and she always goes above and beyond to help in any way she can. She finds time to do all the admin but still seems to be always on the ward speaking to people. She is superhuman.

Alexandra appreciates that Karen communicates with her family and community team and keeps them involved in her recovery. She adds: They think she is a fantastic nurse and always look to her for guidance and advice for management in the community.

Karen's wise words always ring in my ears. I will forever be grateful for the amount of work and time she put in with me. I feel she deserves the highest calibre of recognition for her contribution as an exceptional nurse and an amazing person.

Karen, who works for Lancashire Care NHS Trust, qualified as a mental health nurse almost four years ago. She is shocked to be a finalist. I just come into work and do what I have to do for my patients, she says.

I am gobsmacked that Alexandra went to the trouble of nominating me. When I received the email telling me I was a finalist I thought someone was kidding me.

Patients have told me before I have made a difference but seeing it written down by Alexandra makes it hit home.

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Nadine MacArthur

C. Nadine MacArthur

Community Mental Health Nurse, NHS Grampian

I am so grateful to Nadine for taking a risk to do things differently

Jo Mullen says her community mental heath nurse Nadine MacArthur has made her feel empowered and independent

Nadine MacArthur and Jo Mullen met during Jo's first admission to the psychiatric ward at Dr Gray's Hospital, Elgin, in 2003. Nadine was Jo's named nurse at the time, and has been her community mental health nurse for the past three years. In that time, they have developed an innovative and collaborative approach to the therapeutic relationship between mental health nurse and patient.

'Although I had to give up paid employment due to my mental health problems, it has always been important for me to be engaged in purposeful activity,' says Jo. 'Nadine appreciates this, and encourages me to draw upon my skills and experience, as well as my knowledge of borderline personality disorder (BPD), which is my primary diagnosis.

'Two and a half years ago, Nadine brought it to my attention that there were few resources for BPD locally, especially for those newly diagnosed.
'So with Nadine's support, I wrote a booklet about my experience of living with BPD and some of the ways I'd learned to cope. With her help, more than 650 booklets have been distributed, including 150 locally, both in the community and in the psychiatric ward.'

Self-awareness programme

The booklet was just the beginning and Jo went on to develop a programme for self-awareness - called Wot R U Like? - for mental health professionals to deliver to people with a BPD diagnosis or similar challenges.
'Nadine and I delivered a training session about the programme to our community mental health team, who went on to use the pack,' says Jo.
In April 2016, Nadine and Jo travelled from Elgin to Dundee to give a presentation on Wot R U Like? at the Scottish Mental Health Nursing Research Conference and have since given four training sessions together in Dundee, Aberdeen and Fife as part of a research project led by Geoff Dickens and Emma Lamont of Abertay University. The study seeks to find out whether knowledge and training in aspects of BPD can promote positive attitudes among mental health nursing staff towards people with a BPD diagnosis.


'These training sessions have involved several hundred miles of travel and Nadine generously undertakes the long drives because I am too anxious to use public transport,' says Jo. 'Two of these sessions involved overnight stays in hotels, with the result that Nadine was away from her family.

'During these times, she has used her knowledge of me to avoid situations that cause me to feel anxious, and has helpfully explained to other professionals that my anxiety can cause me to be a bit grumpy.

'Nadine's willingness to work in a collaborative, supportive way, is central to me leading a purposeful life and experiencing the joy of achievement, despite the difficulties I face daily.


'The way we work together is a challenge to the traditional relationship between patient and professional. In the past, I have tended to place people who help me on a pedestal. This way, I feel much more empowered and independent than ever before.

'I am so grateful to Nadine for taking a risk to do things differently. We make a great team.'

Nadine, who works for NHS Grampian, has been a mental health nurse for 18 years. She says she was touched when she read Jo's nomination. 'It was lovely of her to take the time to write about it and nominate me for the award. She did not tell me she was going to do it so it was quite a surprise.

'I would say I am just doing my job. I have done a lot of work with Jo and managed to help her but I have a positive team that has supported me in doing that.'

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Sarah Moody

D. Sarah Moody

Eating Disorder Specialist Nurse, Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

My eating disorder specialist nurse helped me believe I deserved life

Aspiring nurse Hannah hopes she will make half the difference to patients that Sarah Moody made to her.

This year I am planning my wedding, graduating as a nurse and, hopefully, being discharged from mental health services after 15 years. Sarah is one in a million and I have no doubt without her help I would still be the sad, lonely and misunderstood young girl I once was.

Hannah has nominated eating disorder specialist nurse Sarah Moody for giving me life and helping me believe I deserved.

Sarah started working with Hannah in the community more than a year ago. Hannah, who is now 27, says she was a revolving-door inpatient for 11 years and under mental health services since she was 13.

I felt I was unhelpable

She recalls: I had significantly deteriorated over the previous four months, with low weight, poor blood results, I had been labelled as a chronic anorexic with poor prognosis and since my first inpatient admission, the most time I had spent in the community was five months. I was facing another inpatient admission and having to drop out of university. I longed for recovery yet continually felt misunderstood, undeserving and that I was unhelpable.

In her assessment, Sarah spent three hours getting to know Hannah, what she wanted, and what her fears were.

Hannah say: She brought up the diagnosis of borderline personality disorder as a precipitating factor to my eating disorder, something that had not been suggested before.

We had explored the criteria and brought up challenging areas of my past. It was the first time I truly felt understood in mental health services and I believe this opened the doors to my recovery.

Above and beyond her duty

Since then Sarah has gone above and beyond any nurse's duty with dedicated weekly appointments and no clock-watching travelling to me at university, always being at the end the end of a phone or email.

She has helped me overcome past trauma, attachment and abandonment issues and intimacy fears. There has been endless meal planning and exposure work, and most of all she has given me the time and confidence to believe I can and will recover from life-destroying illness.

After each session, Hannah says, she would reflect in emails sometimes pages long. Sarah would always reply in great detail, she recalls, challenging my disordered thoughts and rigid thinking.

She adds that Sarah has helped her improve my emotional regulation, mindfulness and interpersonal effectiveness through dialectical behaviour therapy.


This has allowed me to meet my own and others' needs, says Hannah. Four years ago I was in a general hospital, sectioned, being fed through a tube and my family were told I was unlikely to survive the next few days. I have now been out of hospital 20 months, my bloods are normal and I'm the highest weight I have ever been.

Sarah has walked alongside me every step of the way allowed me to believe I'm more than just a label and that they don't define me. I know I will reach a life without disorders free to embrace life. I hope in my practice I can make half the difference Sarah has to me.

Sarah, who works for Taunton Community Services, has been a nurse for ten years. She felt touched and moved when she read Hannah's nomination. I was shocked to hear I was a finalist. Awards are not why I became a nurse I go into work to help people. Hannah is a lovely girl she did all the hard work. I feel privileged I was able to ignite the hope that was still in her.

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Sian Bodman

E. Sian Bodman

Senior Diabetes Nurse, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board

'Sian makes people with diabetes feel safe and supported'

Sian Bodman has been nominated by Lynne Lewis for championing diabetes care and supporting her patients.

Lynne nominated Sian 'on behalf of so many other people' that she said had been helped by Sian.

'People talk about Sian,' she said, especially in small valley communities. Reputations are so important, a professional means so much to a patient when they are living with diabetes.

'Sian makes people feel safe and once you have met her, she knows you and your nearest and dearest. She understands and supports patients in adjusting their lives to deal with and manage diabetes.'

Sian, who works for Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, finds ways for patients and their families to access information about diabetes and works to structure sustainable, quality care.

Difficulties faced

'She inspires colleagues and patients alike,' Lynne said. 'Sian's care for people radiates from her, and her patients care about her. Patients respect her not just for her expertise but because she never judges them, even when they are struggling to grasp advice and carry it out as planned.

'She makes every patient feel they are in it together, but also shows them how to manage themselves and supports them in doing so.'

Lynne pointed to the difficulties Sian faced in trying to establish an integrated model for diabetes care.

'The resistance to expanding a model of community diabetes care that she had developed in Torfaen felt personal, and it was difficult to witness,' she said.

Structured education

'It is so heartwarming that the value of the way things are done under her leadership has eventually been recognised and it has now been shared across the whole health board. Nurses know best!'

Sian has led the change to the diabetes service model and trained a team to replicate her role in different communities. 'Yet she still finds time to keep that essential connection. She inspires her patients and people admire her,' Lynne said.

'Sian believes good diabetes care begins with structured education,' she added. 'It is so much more than a course of instruction: it is a life lesson. This demonstrates her expertise and her helpful nature, as well as her ability to see where help is needed and to support with empathy.'

'She is aware of the needs of carers and family, and helps them to make realistic goals that are achievable. She is a great communicator and makes sure that any explanations are appropriate to the person and their needs.

Helping others manage

'We want her to be recognised for her holistic approach where she encompasses all health issues into her care, helping people to manage their condition in individual circumstances and showing such warmth towards people.

'So often, we hear people say, "if we could only clone Sian". We never could because she is unique. She is "our Sian".'

Sian says: 'I nearly cried when I saw the nomination. You don't realise the impact you have. I was just doing my job, doing what nurses do the best I can for the people I care for.

'I am proud to see care beginning to join up and being able to be more proactive. Sometimes the NHS is not the easiest place to work in or around, but I feel like I am riding the crest of a wave'

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