The matron in North Middlesex University Hospital’s critical care unit has been named “nurse leader of the year” at the prestigious Nursing Times Awards 2017 for building “brilliant team spirit” in her multi-national staff team.
Gillan Belfon-Johnson transformed the working culture of the hospital’s critical care unit, by helping the team’s 98 nurses from 38 different countries to work as a single, cohesive team to improve patient care.
The transformation began after Gillan joined the unit in 2015. She found that many of the nurses lacked confidence, felt under-skilled and found it difficult to build strong working relationships with others in the team. The team cares for 1,400 patients each year with life-threatening conditions such as kidney and cardiac failure.
Gillan was determined to help build a new, supportive team culture and introduced a series of changes. She:
· merged two separate nursing teams into a single critical care team, covering intensive care and high dependency
· developed a critical care purpose statement which reflects views of nurses and doctors
· supported 38 critical care unit nurses to receive critical care level 7 training – one of the highest levels possible,
boosting their skills and confidence
· set up five nurse-led team study days to develop ways of improving patient care, for example, introducing turning
charts to prevent pressure ulcers, mouth care, and focusing on the management of organ failure
· created nurse experts in key areas of care, such as hand hygiene, developing the confidence of team members to
· launched a “diversity lunch” to celebrate cultural differences and share home-cooked food
· launched team “employee of the month” to celebrate and share success
· displayed the flags of all the staff at the entrance of the critical care unit.
Following a first year of improvement, the team celebrated their achievements in December 2016 at an Oscars-style, red carpet awards ceremony, hosted at Tottenham Hotspur FC.
Gillan said: “As our team grew in confidence, the single most important thing was being visible to them and being available for them every day in the unit at 7.30am. That meant they could always come to me for advice or help. I got support for an additional matron so that senior leadership would be available for them five to seven days a week.
“I also got the help and support of senior colleagues when the going got tough, which sometimes it did. My director of nursing, head nurse and general manager said: ‘Keep going. You are doing fine! You can do this.’ It’s the kind of encouragement we all need in tough and caring jobs.”
The award judges praised Gillan’s courage and tenacity. They said: “She truly exemplified transformational leadership in practice. She sought to understand and tackle some of the most difficult challenges of her unit and used creative and innovative approaches to foster a sense of team spirit.”
Deborah Wheeler, director of nursing and midwifery, said: “We are so proud of Gillan and the brilliant team spirit she has built. The team have achieved so much to improve standards of care.”
Rosemary Dadswell, urology clinical nurse specialist, was also shortlisted in the nurse of the year category. Rosemary, who has worked for the hospital for 31 years, said the thing that makes her day is when a patient says her unit has “given them their life back”.
She said: “Many patients say that the urology suite is like an oasis in the hospital. It is friendly, welcoming and safe; they feel they can talk about their problems in confidence and feel secure.”