THE work carried out by our nation of nurses is vital, but it can often go under the radar.
Yet the care, kindness and compassion shown by these everyday heroes hasn’t gone unnoticed – judging by the sheer volume of nominations we received in the Who Cares Wins Best Nurse category.
All three of our shortlisted nurses do amazing things beyond their NHS job description, from treating earthquake victims in Turkey, coming up with a pioneering project and encouraging more men and people from ethnic minorities to get into nursing.
We've partnered with NHS Charities Together to honour incredible health heroes for The Sun's Who Cares Wins awards, sponsored by the National Lottery.
The winner will be honoured at a star-studded awards ceremony hosted by Davina McCall and screened on Channel 4 and All 4 on September 24.
Here are our Best Nurse finalists…
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SHOCKED there were no combs or hair brushes for Afro-Caribbean patients on her ward, ICU nurse Ginny Wanjiro was determined to make a change.
Ginny, 54, knew how important it was that the severely ill patients in her care looked and felt good, for themselves and their families.
She approached her managers at Guy’s and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust to apply for funding for her pioneering project and now she is set to train staff at hospitals across the UK who want to do the same.
Nursing Sister Ginny says: “People concentrate so much on the machines, the technology, which is good.
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“But once we’ve healed the heart, the lungs, our patients in ICU wake up. The first thing they ask for is a mirror.
“Trying to comb Afro-Caribbean patients’ hair during the pandemic was difficult, as it was so matted.
“Sometimes we had to cut it off. And when black skin dries, it cracks. We did not have the right moisturiser either.
“It is basic nursing care.”
St Thomas’s Hospital, where Ginny works, primarily treats the residents of Lambeth, one of the most diverse boroughs in the country, and Ginny felt that should be reflected in the nursing care they provide.
She was amazed to find Afro combs were not even featured in the NHS catalogue of supplies.
Ginny, who is of Kenyan heritage, launched the pilot scheme last September to bring in specific tools and personal products.
She says: “We were the first hospital in the UK to do it.”
Among the patients who have benefitted from Ginny’s scheme is student Toni Quadri, 22, from Maidstone, Kent, who spent two months in ICU after her organs began to shut down due to a build up of inflammation.
Toni, who was diagnosed with autoimmune disease while in ICU, says of Ginny: “It was nice to have someone who understood the importance of feeling clean and presentable.
“You are an actual person, not just bones and blood.
“Ginny is just brilliant, so thoughtful. Having your needs taken care of without having to voice them is a special thing.
“The first time I was moisturised and my hair was done, it felt like someone had acknowledged me as a person. To me that was priceless.”
Ginny, who has been nursing for 20 years, says the psychological effects of having your hair brushed and skin moisturised is not just superficial.
It can have a huge positive impact and helps recovery.
She says: “When patients feel good, they want to leave and go home earlier. It’s more than just a gesture.”
Ginny was nominated by her colleague Trish McCready, 52, a Critical Care Sister.
Trish says: “Ginny’s just a force of nature. If anybody’s got any questions, she’s always there, with a big smile, saying, ‘I’ll help you’.
"Patients still want to have that human being feeling, and quite rightly so. You’ve got to get the basics right.”
NURSE Cherie Trew was on holiday when she received a call asking her to fly to Turkey to provide emergency care following the devastating earthquake earlier this year.
Grandma Cherie, 61, ordered the supplies she needed from her sun lounger before making her way to the stricken country.
She slept in a tent for three weeks while treating survivors’ wounds and crush injuries, as well as chest infections caused by the dust.
Cherie says: “It was extremely hard at first. I was in a tiny one man tent, sleeping in a farmer’s field opposite a hospital which had crumbled.
“There were lots of tremors at night so it was quite scary, but this was a very small sacrifice.”
The 7.8 magnitude earthquake, which claimed the lives of more than 50,000 people and injured more than 100,000 others, devastated the country in February.
Cherie says: “Many of the doctors and nurses who survived returned home to other parts of the country so there were few medics to deal with the aftermath.
“You’d get up in the morning after very few hours of sleep.
“I’d get in the van, go up to the mountains where people needed help and suddenly I didn’t feel tired anymore.
“I just wanted to help.”
While there, she was treating a variety of ailments, including burns, as many people displaced from their homes tried to cook using stoves in tents.
Cherie has worked in the NHS since 1988 when she started as a healthcare assistant.
Once her daughters – Leeanne, 38 and Danielle, 31 – were older, she decided to train as a nurse, qualifying in 2003.
When she is not abroad, Cherie is rapid response matron and team lead for Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust, in the London Borough of Bexley.
She provides urgent care for patients who, without input, would be admitted into acute care.
Cherie also volunteers with the charity UK-Med and is on call for eight weeks every year.
But this was the first time she was called upon to help, receiving the call in March while she was on holiday with husband Paul, 66, in the Dominican Republic.
She says: “It was just something I really wanted to do. I have the skills, so why not?
“My family were scared when I said I was going to Turkey, they didn’t know what I was going into.
“I didn’t see that fear. I just wanted to do what I could to help.
“Caring for people is something that comes naturally to me.
“When I got home, Paul said, ‘That’s it, you’ve done it now’. I just smiled and thought, ‘This is only the beginning.’”
Cherie was nominated for the award by Jane Wells, Executive Director of Nursing for the Trust.
Jane said: “Cherie is an excellent Matron.
“It is her job to care for patients in the community who would otherwise end up in hospital and this is something she does with real heart and passion.
“On top of that, she is a volunteer for UK-Med.
“When she went to Turkey earlier this year, she really went above and beyond what is expected of her as a nurse and as a Trust, we couldn’t be prouder.”
FOR Max Oosman, being a nurse is not just a job, it’s a calling – and he’s determined to get more men into the profession.
He is a Community Mental Health Nurse Practitioner who works at a dementia assessment clinic in Burnley, Lancashire – and in his free time gives talks encouraging young men from ethnic minority backgrounds to take up nursing to help bridge the gender gap.
Max, 70, says: “If I see a young man stacking shelves in a supermarket, I’ll go up to him and say, ‘Have you thought about getting into nursing? It’s a great career.’
"Sometimes they might say they’ll think about it.
“I was out cycling and a few young Asian boys were following me on my bike.
"They asked what I did and were in disbelief when I told them I was a nurse.
“But nursing is for everyone.”
Granddad Max, who lives in Nelson, Lancashire, with wife Norma, 69, a retired nurse, left his home-country of Mauritius in 1972, aged 19, to train as a nurse in the UK.
During his training, he was one of just one of five men and he says he came up against prejudice.
Max says: “You’ve got to remember at that time there signs up everywhere saying, ‘No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs.’”
After qualifying, he moved around the country and rose through the ranks, being promoted to Deputy Director of Nursing for Burnley and Pendle Mental health services and continued to work hard for diversity and inclusion.
Then, in 2008, he decided to retire – albeit for only one month.
Max says: “The role I had was very stressful. And by 55, everyone working in mental health is burnt out.
“But then someone said, ‘Do you want to come back?’
"At first, I said ‘no way’ but now I have gone back to what I love – nursing and dealing with patients again.
“My previous role was more of a manager and I was not looking forward to work before.”
Max works in the East Lancashire Memory assessment service, at the Gannow Lane Resource Centre in Burnley, Lancs.
He sees patients who have been referred by their GP to the service by the NHS for a dementia assessment, and one of his roles is having to tell people they have dementia.
Max, whose own mum has dementia, says: "It’s very difficult sometimes giving bad news.
“You can come home quite drained. It can be a stressful time, but I try to put them at ease.”
He also supports patients after the diagnosis, giving advice and signposting them to other NHS services.
In August, Max celebrated his 51st year of service in the NHS.
He was also chosen to speak at Westminster Abbey in July as part of the NHS 75th anniversary celebrations.
Director of the NHS Race and Health Observatory, Dr Habib Naqvi, who leads work nationally on identifying and tackling ethnic health inequalities, said: "I first met Max when I was delivering a race equality in the workplace session.
"As a Mauritian male nurse, Max has bridged intersectional gaps of race and gender.
"Through his long-standing work in the NHS, and through his own promotion, Max highlights the importance of diversity and inclusion not just in the NHS, but across society.
"Max is a great role model for current and future generations.
"For those that want to join the NHS from the UK and from abroad. Max exemplifies and lives the values and principles of the NHS Constitution – of dignity and respect and ensuring everyone counts."
Max, who has four children and four grandchildren, adds: “I have given 51 years and I’m still going strong. I have no notion of finishing.
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“I still have lots of energy. I love my job. This is what I live for. It’s my purpose in life.
“I get the Friday feeling every Monday morning. If you enjoy it, why do you stop?”
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