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‘Extraordinary achievements’ of healthcare staff recognised at Nurse of the Year Awards

'It is so important that we support, value and recognise our nursing staff to ensure that we retain them in Northern Ireland'

Winners, from left, Julie Dudgeon, Nathan Weir and Dawn Ferguson with deputy chief executive and director of nursing Heather Trouton

Six members of staff from the Southern Health and Social Care Trust have won awards at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Awards.

The ceremony was held recently in the Culloden Hotel, Holywood.

Dawn Ferguson, from Banbridge, assistant director in the Southern Trust, won the Brownlee-Silverdale Leadership Award.

As a strong advocate for the nursing profession, Dawn has created and led numerous workforce and education initiatives. Drawing on feedback, focus groups, and data analysis, she influenced a review of the Southern Trust’s preceptorship programme, resulting in better support for newly-registered nurses.

Her strategic leadership and collaborative working with the Southern Regional College and Open University has led to the development of a nursing programme allowing students to work in nursing support roles in the trust, as well as providing an alternative pathway to access nursing.

Dawn’s nominator described her as a “strong leader and sets impeccable standards. Her commitment to her profession has directly and positively influenced nurse development and individual and team growth. She challenges perceptions to raise professional standards and promote patient care”.

Nathan Weir, from Portadown, won the Chief Nursing Officer Rising Star Award, sponsored by the Department of Health.

Nathan joined the Southern Trust in 2017 as a peer support worker and began the Open University nursing programme a year later. Based in the Bluestone unit at Craigavon Area Hospital, he is using his own experience as a peer support worker and leading a relaunch of the peer support in-reach team.

By providing face-to-face emotional support and encouragement through a peer support hub, Nathan is promoting the message that there is hope for recovery, and has developed a range of activities to strengthen the quality of patient care and enhance the service provided.

The judging panel praised Nathan’s clinical skills and his absolute determination in advocating for patients.

Runners-up Bronagh Mulholland, Una Hughes and Laura Spiers

Julie Dudgeon won the Health Care Support Worker Award, sponsored by LV. Julie is a long-serving emergency department health care support worker at Craigavon Area Hospital and has been nominated for the dedication and positive impact she has on all those who work with her.

Colleagues describe Julie as the heart and soul of the department and that she has extended her skill set both to develop herself and to support the whole team, acquiring a range of advanced clinical skills.

Her nominator praised her understanding of patient privacy and dignity, as well as her unrelenting advocacy on behalf of patients and their families.

Bronagh Mulholland, from Aghalee, was awarded runner-up in the Public Health Award, sponsored by the Public Health Agency.

As specialist community health nurse for minority ethnic communities in the Southern Trust, Bronagh is responsible for responding to the health needs of Ukrainian refugees moving to the trust area.

She has supported nearly 700 refugees, helping them to register with a GP and complete initial health screening, as well as responding to their urgent health and social care needs, and has also helped to identify and support those who have experienced exploitation.

Her nominator said “she brings her knowledge and experience, alongside relevant evidence and a research base, to reduce barriers to access to health care and other services.”

Una Hughes, from Loughbrickland, children’s training co-ordinator at the Southern Trust, was runner-up in the Learning in Practice Award sponsored by the Open University.

Una was nominated for a project which aims to ensure that the just-in-time training required for the safe care of children with nursing needs at home, in school and in community settings is engaging, easily accessible and promotes integration.

This project will transform the training for carers of children who require interventions such as enteral feeding, tracheostomy care and home ventilation, and is available 24/7.

The judging panel was impressed with how Una provides accessible training for all, as well as the outstanding feedback and evaluation she has received.

Laura Spiers, from Banbridge, was runner-up in the Directors of Nursing Award sponsored by the HSC trusts.

Laura, who is children and young people services governance co-ordinator, was commended for being a strong voice for patient safety and quality within children and young people’s services, influencing strategic planning, service improvement and enhanced health outcomes.

She has developed and implemented a variety of training programmes and patient safety improvements for children and young people.

The judging panel praised Laura’s passion, drive and capacity to motivate and inspire.

Director of the RCN in Northern Ireland Rita Devlin, said: “Through these awards we have heard of the extraordinary achievements of nurses and health care support workers and the impact this has had on patient care.

“It is so important that we support, value and recognise our nursing staff to ensure that we retain them in Northern Ireland. These awards truly highlight the skills and expertise we are fortunate to have and the commitment to improving services and care for patients.”

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