NURSES hold the hands of their patients – whether it's good news, or bad, being delivered.
They know the ins and outs of every one of their charges, and expect nothing when they go the extra mile for them.
Some also do amazing work beyond their hospital, going out into the community to help people who are struggling, have fallen through the cracks, or who can't access medical support themselves.
We received hundreds of nominations for incredible nurses across the country – and would love to crown every single one a winner for their tireless work – but three have been selected for our shortlist.
We've partnered with NHS Charities Together and The National Lottery to honour our incredible health heroes.
The winner of the Best Nurse award will be honoured at a star-studded ceremony being hosted by Davina McCall and screened on Channel 4 and All 4 on November 27 at 6.30pm.
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Here are our finalists…
JOANNE Dickinson has saved countless lives through a specialist nursing service that brings medical care to society’s most vulnerable.
After qualifying as a nurse in 2001, she volunteered with The Salvation Army offering nursing care to the homeless in Bolton, Greater Manchester.
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Realising how many people needed help, she was instrumental in setting up the Homeless and Vulnerable Adults Service in 2006.
Joanne led the team and expanded the service from previously taking place for two hours a week in a church hall to now supporting more than a hundred face-to-face contacts per week.
The service provides outreach support on the streets as well as in hostels and temporary accommodation, three drop-in clinics per week at a health centre, as well as working with a local shelter, street kitchen and Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to support those at risk of homelessness.
One grateful former patient is Barry Fletcher, who has nominated Joanne for helping him to kick his drug addiction and get off the streets.
Barry, 51, said: "I was sleeping on the streets when Jo approached me and said she could get me medical help.
“I had a lot of problems at that point. I was using drugs and I had a terrible foot infection.
“All the skin on my foot had fallen off but as I had no address, I was struggling to get appointments.
“She sorted it all out and got me the help I needed. If it wasn't for Jo, I probably would have lost my foot.”
Joanne also put him in touch with charities that found him accommodation.
We try to ensure no one is ever discharged back onto the streets. It's exhausting but very rewarding.”
He has since kicked his drug addiction, found work as a labourer and now has his own flat in Bolton.
Barry said: "Jo is amazing. I don't know where I'd be today if she hadn't come up to me that day."
Mum-of-two Joanne, 52, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, qualified as a nurse in 2001.
She was working as a district nurse when she was approached to take part in a pilot service offering nursing care to the homeless and rough sleepers.
She said: “I did that two hours a week initially but there was so much need, it was taking over my other job too.
“We were seeing people often with severe wounds where they had injected drugs or leg ulcers.
“Many were drug abusers, homeless or people with chaotic housing situations.
"I fought for funding and eventually this was made a full-time role, which I shared with another nurse.”
After struggling to get funding for a GP, Joanne took a course and qualified as an advanced nurse practitioner allowing her to care for more patients herself without having to refer to a doctor.
As well as the clinics, Joanne and her team regularly carry out ‘walkabouts’ to find people in need.
She said: "As well as medical treatment, we give them information on local food banks and get them clothes.
“We try to ensure no one is ever discharged back onto the streets.
“It's exhausting but very rewarding.”
Hospital Matron for Bolton Hospital NHS Foundation Trust Rachel Taylor said the growth of the service is all down to Joanne.
She said: “Joanne is determined to take the service to the people whose lives are often chaotic and unpredictable. She is constantly thinking outside of the box of new ways she can help them.”
DEDICATED Dorcas Gwata started her career aged 21 as a hospital cleaner, before becoming a healthcare assistant and then a mental health nurse.
She has overseen a special public health project working with young people involved in gangs, knife-crime and exploitation.
Inspired by volunteering in her native Zimbabwe, she used the 'street clinic approach', an innovative method of engaging vulnerable young people wherever they were.
Dorcas, 52, said: “Community engagement and collaborative working is incredibly important in achieving better health outcomes.
“I care deeply about the young people I look after, they are as vulnerable as they are resilient.
“Sometimes I bump into them in the market or street, they are always polite and cultured in their interactions with me – a side of them that society does not always see.”
Dorcas is a Psychiatric Liaison Nurse, working out of the A&E department at St Mary’s Hospital, in Paddington, London.
But in 2013, she was asked to oversee the Westminster Integrated Gang Unit project, working with young people involved in gangs and knife-crime.
She said: “I looked at the trauma and impact of violence on young people.
“A lot was influenced by inequalities – many of the young people came from black and minority ethnic groups and communities affected by poverty.”
Then, in 2015, she was given a grant from the Florence Nightingale Foundation to travel to her home country of Zimbabwe to work on a HIV programme, helping patients become more engaged with mental health services.
Dorcas said: “When I got back I wanted to see how we could get our community more engaged with mental health.
“We applied those lessons to London, using a street clinic approach.
“I didn’t work in an office – I'd wear trainers and jeans and engage with people wherever they were – in McDonald’s, on street corners or in prison.
“One girl came from three generations who had never worked. There was a very strong history of criminality and drug-use.
“She took an overdose, and I helped her. It took a lot of work and she needed a lot of help.
“Now, she now works in the City. We broke the cycle. Her children, and her children’s children, will see the possibilities because their mother worked. It makes me really proud.”
Now her hard work has been rewarded after she was nominated for the Best Nurse award by her colleague, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist Dr Maddalena Miele.
Dr Miele said: "As soon as I met Dorcas, she struck me as someone who really thinks outside of the box.
“She understands the barrier that some women from ethnic minorities face when trying to access healthcare services and she has made it her mission to provide them with better psychiatric care.
“The model she developed will inform policy and change how mental health professionals work with these vulnerable individuals."
Dorcas, who is also a global health consultant, campaigning and advising to improve health inequalities worldwide, says she is incredibly proud to be a nurse.
She said: “I love the intimate therapeutic relationship that we can develop with our patients. Nurses are at the beginning and at the end of life. We are the constant, we are always there.”
DOREEN Robinson was just 14 when she started volunteering at her local hospital.
Now 71, she is still working and gets up at 4.45am for the long drive to her job as a Sister at Solihull Hospital in the West Midlands.
And despite her two hip operations, one knee operation and seeing the NHS change dramatically over her 54 years of service, Doreen shows no signs of slowing down – and still works a 30-hour week.
As well as caring for her patients, Doreen is also a mentor to younger colleagues who have put her forward for the Best Nurse award.
Colleen Edwards, 42, said: “I worked alongside Doreen for three years as a healthcare assistant.
“I had never been interested in nursing before, but Doreen showed me a different side.
“When I started my nurse training, Doreen helped me progress and pushed me to become a better nurse.
“I’ve been qualified for three years’ now and work in a different hospital – but I still remember Doreen’s words if I’m having a disastrous shift, ‘Colleen, you get more with sugar than you do with salt.’
“So, I put a smile on my face, show my patients compassion and I continue – even if I’ve got patients ranting at me because they’ve been waiting in A&E for a long time.
I don’t know how she keeps on going – but she needs to put it in a bottle and give me some.”
“Any job that needs doing on the unit, Doreen does it. If a healthcare assistant doesn’t turn up or another nurse is exhausted, she steps in and keeps everything running.
“Doreen works with you, treats her staff like family and has a genuine love for the job.
“Her practice is exemplary and we need more experienced nurses like Doreen to help guide the newly-qualified.
“I don’t know how she keeps on going – but she needs to put it in a bottle and give me some.”
Mum-of-two Doreen has seen many changes during her career – and once met Princess Diana when the late Royal visited Heartlands Hospital in Birmingham in 2013, where Doreen was working at the time.
She said: “Although the NHS is a different world now, the respect I have for my patients and staff never changes.
“I’ve always believed that the colour of the uniform doesn’t matter, as long as we work as a team.
“Meeting Princess Diana was magical – but I almost missed my chance because me and the girls were so busy with patients.
“I’ll never forget her presence, it’s an emotion I can’t explain.”
She has actually retired not once, but twice, but decided to return to work because she missed the job so much.
Doreen, who lives in Tamworth, Staffs, said: “I’ve bought The Sun for 20 years. I do the crossword and I’m ‘Dear Doreen’ in my lunch hour for colleagues and between us we solve the problems.
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“The Sun is a big thing in Care Four, the ward where I work.
“It feels amazing to be nominated.”
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