Picture this. A stage, a set of glimmering awards and a room full of research staff.
Add in a host and an air of anticipation and you have the perfect setting for the Health and Care Research Wales Research Impact Awards 2019.
Now in their second year, the awards took place at Jurys Inn in Cardiff on 14 March, celebrating the big achievements of those working within the support and delivery service.
“We were really impressed by the nominations we received,” said Dr Nicola Williams, director of support and delivery at Health and Care Research Wales.
“We had double the amount of entries so it was even more competitive than last year!”
Just like at the Oscars, there were a lot of surprised faces as the winners’ names were read out and they were called to the stage to collect their glass trophies.
There were three main award categories: public, research community and staff. Up first was the public award, which was split between two winning entries.
The Hywel Dda research nurses were recognised for their “dedication” to providing access to clinical trials. The team is consistently among the top recruiters for studies in Wales and the UK.
While research assistant Sarah Davies was praised for her “creativity” in recruiting people to the HealthWise Wales study, in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board area.
The research community award was given to Lydia Vitolo, industry manager in the Support and Delivery Centre. Lydia was recognised for being “instrumental” in enabling industry and chief investigators to set up studies in multiple sites across Wales in a streamlined way.
Putting rheumatology research “back on the map” at Aneurin Bevan University Health Board earned research nurse Anna Roynon-Reed the staff award. Anna impressively cleared a 10 year backlog of follow-up appointments.
Now, it wouldn’t be an awards ceremony without an element of surprise – cue the unexpected final award.
“We were faced with a dilemma,” explained Nicola Williams. “We had one nomination that covered all three categories so the judging panel decided to award a fourth prize – the Judges’ award.”
This special award was given to the Critical Care Research Team, based at the University Hospital of Wales, for their work in improving the use of emergency consent for research.
The only thing missing from the awards ceremony were the emotional acceptance speeches, but luckily we had a backstage pass to get all the winning reactions.
“For me it’s important to be recognised,” said Sarah Jones, lead research nurse at Bronglais General Hospital, one of the Hywel Dda research nurses who collected the public award.
“We’re four small district general hospitals and people forget that sometimes small is better. We work very well together, we communicate well and through doing well with research we put our health board on the map.”
While the Hywel Dda nurses were having their official photos taken, research assistant Sarah Davies told us she was “absolutely over the moon” with her public award for the work she’s done on the HealthWise Wales study.
“I’m glad to have played just a small part in it,” said Sarah. “Hopefully the work I’ve done will make a difference.”
We managed to grab a word with industry manager Lydia Vitolo as she stepped away from the flash of the photographer’s camera, with her research community award safely in her hands.
“It means a lot,” said Lydia. “It made me feel quite emotional because I do put a lot of effort into the work I do and it’s really nice to have it recognised officially.
“It’s like building bridges almost. It’s not easy to do research in the NHS, and Wales isn’t always the first place people think of when they think about research, so it takes a lot of PR and determination to convince people to come to Wales.”
Across the other side of the ‘backstage’ area we spotted the “delighted” winners of the Judges’ award as they stood in line to be snapped with their shiny glassware.
“To say that we’ve scored across all three categories is amazing for all of us,” said Jade Cole, clinical nurse specialist and critical care research team lead.
“The team works really hard and hopefully what we do can help other researchers too. We’re absolutely over the moon, we weren’t expecting it at all!”
In true awards style, research nurse Anna Roynon-Reed wasn’t there to collect her staff award in person but she told us later how “surprised but overwhelmingly proud” she was to be recognised.
“Working within research is so rewarding and inspiring,” said Anna. “I feel so lucky to be working in an area that can improve and transform clinical practice for both patients and staff.”
The Health and Care Research Wales Research Impact Awards 2019 might be over but there’s always next year.
We’ll provide the stage and the glimmering awards – and we’ll invite you and your colleagues to fill the room, so we can celebrate even more amazing achievements.