YNM2020: A year as the Research and Innovation Nurse of the Year – a blog by Vicki Conroy, Research Nurse Manager

At the beginning 2020: Year of the Nurse and Midwife, no one could have imagined we would be living and working through a pandemic, but three months in that’s where we found ourselves.

In January, when I found out that I had won Nurse of the Year for Research and Innovation (R&I), I cried. There are several reasons for this. As anyone who knows me is aware, I am passionate about research and extremally proud of the job that I have been doing for nearly 10 years, with five of those years managing the Adult Haematology Oncology Research Team at Manchester Royal Infirmary (MRI). As a team, we deliver blood cancer trials to offer different treatments options and sometimes lifesaving treatments to our patients. As a manager, I encourage a team philosophy of valuing every member’s contribution; we support and help each other, respect each other’s views and we make suggestions on how we can improve service delivery to our patients.

Because of this strong team bond, when my name was announced, and I saw the pride on the faces of my team; it meant so much to me.

The other reason why I cried was 2019 was a tough year for me, with the loss of three family members, including my Dad. My Dad was my biggest fan, he was my role model, and a lot of what I have achieved in my life is because of his support and encouragement. I just remember thinking at the time that he would be so happy and proud of me.    

Vicki Conroy with her Research and Innovation Nurse of the Year award

When I found out that five of my team members had nominated me; that the panel members thought this was an amazing endorsement of my abilities as a line manager, and many of the comments reflected how I make my staff feel empowered and supported, I was overwhelmed. It has given me so much confidence about the way I lead and manage. 

In their nomination submissions, my team also praised how I prioritise their health and wellbeing, commenting that my good communication within the team helps them feel well informed and that I consistently set an example in challenging situations – demonstrating my excellent leadership skills.

Little did I know when reading the nominations back in January how much of a challenging situation 2020 would be.

Just a month later, at the end of February, I remember being asked to look at our portfolio of ongoing research in order to prioritise urgent studies and start making plans for the next few months. At first, I imagined that we just needed to put things in place to get us to June, but it soon became clear that would not be the case.  

I worked with my team to put this in place and we developed a system we could all use and which ensured that if any staff were off ill or redeployed, our trials could still be delivered. This proved invaluable as March went on, when gradually four members of my team were redeployed to different areas; the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), the newly form COVID-19 Research Team and other clinical areas. It was a stressful period for us all, but we remained in contact and supported each other. Our strong team bond, excellent communication and effective forward-planning ahead of any team member being redeployed, allowed us to continue to deliver urgent blood cancer trials throughout this year. 

This year I have not only delivered research studies, but my team and I have also taken part in several COVID-19 studies as participants, which I am extremely proud of. I am unbelievably proud of every member of the team in general; of how hard they have worked and how they have developed professionally. It has been a pleasure to watch their confidence grow and their leadership skills become so much stronger. 

It has been a hard year for everyone, but it has helped raise the profile of clinical research nursing and the importance of clinical research. I am so grateful and thank everyone who took the time to vote for me, and to the panel for choosing me as the R&I Nurse of the Year.

It has been an honour to have represented R&I as the Nurse of the Year and as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife has now been extended across MFT into next year, I can continue to do that for a little bit longer.