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Armagh heart failure nurse is RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year 2024

Edith Donnelly
Edith Donnelly

Edith Donnelly, from Armagh, an advanced nurse practitioner based in the Southern Trust has won the RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Award 2024 for her work in improving care for patients with heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF).

Organised by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), Edith was presented with the award by Health Minister, Mike Nesbitt MLA, at a special ceremony held at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood.

Edith recognised a gap in service provision for people living with HFpEF and identified the need to treat them early.

She has made an immeasurable impact on this group of patients who are now being correctly diagnosed with Edith providing holistic and person-centred assessment, treatment, education and follow-up.

Patients are experiencing lower hospital admissions and a better quality of life as a result. Many of these patients would otherwise have gone unrecognised and under-treated.

Edith’s nominator says that patients feel able to engage with her service and make decisions about their care and says Edith “worked tirelessly and passionately for this group of patients, seeing the human story behind every person who walked through her door”, practising “with knowledge, compassion and empathy”.

Mairead Donnelly, from Benburb, head of service for public health nursing in the Southern Trust, won the Brownlee-Silverdale Leadership Award.

Leanne Bogle, Mairead Donnelly and Rita Devlin

Leanne Bogle, Mairead Donnelly and Rita Devlin

Mairead has been described as a strong advocate for the nursing profession and a valued leader across public health nursing.

She was awarded for leading a range of initiatives including support for families experiencing mental health problems, support to victims of domestic abuse and ensuring health screening for refugees and asylum seekers are implemented.

The judging panel commended Mairead’s dedication to service development and her commitment to meeting the health care needs of patients and their families.

Fiona Keegan, from Portadown, Macmillan colorectal nurse in the Southern Trust was runner-up in the Patient’s Choice Award sponsored by the Patient and Client Council.

Katherine McElroy, Fiona Keegan, Joan Newberry and Rita Devlin

Fiona was nominated by a patient who, almost five years ago, was faced with a harrowing cancer diagnosis. The patient says that despite being a registered nurse, it was a frightening journey ahead.

However, Fiona transformed a daunting and frightening experience into one marked by compassion, understanding, and exceptional care.

The patient says Fiona’s ability to explain complex medical procedures in simple terms was informative and empowering and that she epitomises the best of the nursing profession and always goes above and beyond to provide compassionate care.

Darren Hughes, from Co Armagh, was commended in the RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Award.

Darren works in the Southern Trust’s child and adolescent mental health service and has a specialist role in the Youth Justice Agency teams covering this area.

In 2019, Darren set up an evidence-based model to meet the emotional and mental health needs of the local YJA population that could be implemented regionally.

Nicola Ranger, Darren Hughes and Briege Quinn

He has played a key role in promoting good relations in health and justice services and the project has raised standards of care to an often-marginalised group of young people who are at higher risk of developing mental health problems and more likely to face challenges when accessing support.

The judging panel commended Darren’s engagement with young people and the success of his innovative project in enhancing standards of care and patient experience.

Kim Tait, from Dungannon, a practice nurse in Armagh and Dungannon GP Federation won the Primary Care Nursing Award sponsored by the GP Federations in Northern Ireland.

Based at Archway GP practice in Armagh, Kim’s role focuses on the promotion of good health and prevention of ill health. She is passionate about providing tailored education for patients and helping them to make better lifestyle choices.

Kim has built a relationship with the local Men’s Shed in Armagh, engaging with men with medical conditions and liaising with her GP practice team to determine the most effective way of tracking the progress of participants.

The judging panel praised Kim’s passion for improving health and her commitment to the communities she serves and supports.

Professor Donna Fitzsimons from Queen’s University, Belfast won the prestigious Kathleen Robb Award for outstanding contribution to nursing, sponsored by the Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council.

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 designed a nurse-led service which is an outstanding example of how nurses across Northern Ireland are leading and improving patient care. Edith’s commitment to her patients is inspirational and she has made a huge impact on their quality of life.

“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.”

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