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Heart failure nurse is RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year 2024

An inspirational nurse from Armagh 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).

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Edith Donnelly was presented with the award by Health Minister Mike Nesbitt MLA and RCN Northern Ireland Executive Director, Rita Devlin, at a special ceremony held at the Culloden Hotel, Holywood last night (13 June).

Based in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust, 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 undertreated.

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”.

Runner-up on the evening was Suzie McCullagh, an Occupational Health Nurse Specialist in the Belfast Trust. Suzie was awarded for making an exceptional contribution to occupational health nursing, a critical but often overlooked area. She has been relentless in pursuing change and service improvement, including the management of infectious diseases, setting up a nurse-led skin clinic and overhauling the reporting of sharps injuries. 

Two new awards were launched this year including the Digital Innovation in Nursing Award sponsored by Digital Health and Care NI. David McAuley, Mental Health Practitioner at Causeway GP Federation won the award for a groundbreaking online initiative which provides a one stop platform for patients to find health information and services.

There were two winners of the Palliative Care Nursing Award, sponsored by Marie Curie. Lisa Cassidy and Lynda Cox represented a team of clinical nurse specialists in the Northern Trust who were awarded for the specialist palliative care and support they provide to patients. Roisin O’Toole and Alyson Wilson from the Belfast Trust lead the delivery of palliative care within the Trust’s care home team. They were awarded for improving residents' experiences and reducing unnecessary emergency department attendances across the sector.

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.”

List of winners

RCN Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year Award

Winner

Edith Donnelly

Advanced nurse practitioner, heart failure

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

Runner-up

Suzie McCullagh

Occupational health nurse specialist

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

Commended

Sharon Adamson

Lead nurse, general surgery

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

 

Darren Hughes

CAMHS youth justice senior mental health practitioner

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Public Health Award sponsored by the Public Health Agency

Winner

Cathy Armstrong

Nursing governance lead

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

Runner-up

Laura Mitchell

Child health assistant

Western Health and Social Care Trust

Palliative Care Nursing Award sponsored by Marie Curie

Joint winners

Roisin O’Toole, Assistant service manager, care home support team

Alyson Wilson, Clinical nurse co-ordinator for palliative care, care home support team

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

 

Lisa Cassidy and Lynda Cox

Hospital specialist palliative care team clinical nurse specialists

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

  

Health Care Support Worker Award

Joint winners

Robert Mulligan

Senior health care assistant

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

 

Melaine Stronge

Senior health care assistant

Western Health and Social Care Trust

 

Chief Nursing Officer Rising Star Award, sponsored by the Department of Health

Joint winners

Aneica Duffy

Staff nurse

Western Health and Social Care Trust

 

Emma Parker

Staff nurse

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Team Manager Award, Sponsored by the HSC Clinical Education Centre and Business Services Organisation

Joint winners

Cahal Bradley

Charge nurse

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Oonagh Andrews

Sister, rapid response team

Western Health and Social Care Trust

 

Primary Care Nursing Award, sponsored by GP Federations Northern Ireland

Winner

Kim Tait

General practice nurse

Armagh and Dungannon GP Federation

 

Runner-up

David McAuley

Primary care mental health practitioner

Causeway GP Federation

 

Independent Sector Nursing Award, sponsored by Balmoral Healthcare

Winner

Hazel McMullan

Deputy manager

Healthcare Ireland

 

Runner-up

Diana Mos

Registered manager

Healthcare Ireland

 

Directors of Nursing Award, sponsored by Belfast, Northern, South Eastern, Southern and Western HSC Trusts

Winner

Caroline Diamond

Assistant Director of Women’s Services and Head of Midwifery

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Runner-up

Brendan McGrath

Assistant Director of Nursing: Workforce, Planning and Modernisation

Western Health and Social Care Trust

 

Student Award sponsored by the Queen’s University of Belfast

Winner

Patrina Loughran

The Queen’s University of Belfast

 

Runner-up

April Canning

Ulster University

 

Nursing Research Award sponsored by Ulster University

Winner

Mark Dornan

Lecturer

The Queen’s University of Belfast

 

Runner-up

Florence Sharkey

Lecturer in adult nursing

Ulster University

 

Learning in Practice Award sponsored by the Open University

Winner

Teresa Frazer

Practice educator

Western Health and Social Care Trust

 

Runner-up

Leah Beattie

Regional practice facilitator

East Eden Limited

 

Defence Reservist Nurse Award, sponsored by Defence Relationship Management, Ministry of Defence

Winner

Angela Dolan-Gregg

Infection prevention and control nursing officer

210 Multi-Role Medical Regiment

 

Runner-up

Kerry McFadden-Newman

Senior nursing officer

335 Medical Evacuation Regiment

 

Cancer Nurse Award, sponsored by Macmillan Cancer Support

Winner

Winner

Kerrie Sweeney and Lisa Lyons

Haematology nursing team

Northern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Runner-up

Nicola Broome

Macmillan acute oncology clinical nurse specialist

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Leadership Award, sponsored by Roberta Brownlee and Silverdale Care Home

Winner

Mairead Donnelly

Head of service for public health nursing

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Runner-up

Angela Reed

Chief nursing and midwifery information officer

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Patient’s Choice Award, sponsored by the Patient and Client Council

Winner

Catherine Shannon

District nurse

Belfast Health and Social Care Trust

 

Joint Runners-up

Joan Newberry

School nurse

Friends’ School, Lisburn

 

Fiona Keegan

Macmillan colorectal nurse

Southern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Digital Innovation in Nursing Award sponsored by Digital Health and Care, Northern Ireland

Winner

David McAuley

Primary care mental health practitioner

Causeway GP Federation

 

Runner-up

Rachel Belshaw

Digital practice officer

South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust

 

Kathleen Robb Award for outstanding contribution to nursing, sponsored by NIPEC

 

Professor Donna Fitzsimons,

Queen’s University, Belfast

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