As I write this, it’s the morning after the Antimicrobial Guardian Awards 2020. We were lucky enough to be considered for the Public Engagement category for the Nosocomial Project. Much to my jaw-dropping shock, we were lucky enough to win. This post isn’t really about that, though. This post is about why I think it’s important that such awards exist, which is not a universally held opinion.
Every year there are a number of local and national awards for NHS and Public Health related activity. I’ve been lucky enough to have been nominated for, and won, some of these awards. I have experienced many lovely responses but I’ve also received negative ones. These have indicated that the same people always win everything and that my success makes others uncomfortable. So would I put my awards somewhere where they can’t be seen? There is obviously a whole blog topic on how we do a better job at celebrating others’ success and taking it as an opportunity to lift up the whole; but there are also some very practical reasons why these kinds of awards are important.
Why Do I Think Awards Matter?
The NHS has traditionally been a very siloed environment, with professions working very separately. Many awards have categories that are targeted at, or recognise, collaboration across silo’s. This is one way of getting people to actively think about their working environment and start to take steps to break down barriers that have long existed.
If you work in a professional group that is often pretty invisible at organisational or national level, these awards present a wonderful opportunity to highlight the work that these groups do, which might go unnoticed in the general day-to-day workings of healthcare. This can have a direct impact on how valued these groups feel, but also in inspiring how practices could be integrated for the benefit of the system.
Many of these rewards are for projects that are done on top of the day job. Although there are prizes for individuals, a lot of the time these projects can only be delivered by teams. Within the day-to-day NHS, we don’t really have a way to recognise these teams when compared to private industry. It’s important for me, as a leader, to acknowledge the hard work of my teams by nominating them and ensuring they feel seen and their work appreciated.
Projects such as Nosocomial require external funding to be able to develop and progress. Winning awards for the work is pretty much the same as a paper going through external peer review and being accepted. When applying for further money to continue the work, or for other project applying to Trust Board for support, having an external stamp of approval can be the thing that moves decisions in your favour. They can also provide valuable free promotion to support building new collaborations or expanding the work to increase impact.
Nominating work for awards can provide a great moment for reflection and self-evaluation of the project. Projects often develop organically and, because they are often done in addition to other work, we don’t always take the time to reflect on the strengths and failures of what we’re doing. The process of nominating can highlight gaps, especially when it comes to evaluating work. These can then be addressed and you may decide to hold off on the nomination until you have the extra data. Most importantly it will make the work itself better, irrespective of whether you win.
Something I feel really strongly about is the removal of hierarchies and empowerment in terms of the future of healthcare. Many awards now have specific categories for inclusion of the public in work, or a focus on diversity and inclusion. These specific categories demonstrate the values of the NHS and encourage work that lives up to those values. If we really want to create an NHS that works for the modern world, the more that can be done to embed these values in everyday working, the more successful the change will be.
Lastly, and most significantly, these awards offer the chance to share learning. To discover what works. To be inspired by the work of others. Although awards are often considered to primarily benefit the individual or team, the truth of the matter is that that the people that really benefit are those that are part of the system that the awards represent. This is fundamentally why we should work to support these events, not for the ‘me’ but for the ‘we!’
Top tips for nominations:
- Read the category criteria so you are applying for the right one.
- Understand the scoring scheme (which is usually listed somewhere) so you know what the judges will be interested in.
- If there are questions, make sure you answer the question asked, not what you think they are asking.
- Think whether now is the time. Ensure that it is the right time to nominate, or consider whether you would be better to wait to the subsequent year to have appropriate evaluation data etc. to improve your chances.
- Know that it’s not about the winning and that this (like submitting a grant or paper) is worth celebrating in itself.
All views in this blog are my own