On reflection of being awarded an OBE in The Queen's New Year Honours List for 2015...
I recall reading how to nominate someone for a Queen’s honour a couple of years ago and then becoming embroiled in reading through previous lists of those who had been awarded them – I’m not sure if that was intrigue or nosiness! Among those amazing people who clearly thoroughly deserved this recognition, however, I was struck by how few health professionals were included - particularly since I’m honoured to work with so many who go above and beyond the call of duty on a regular basis for some of our most troubled families and young people.
I pondered and asked myself why this might be so; was it that nurses didn’t fit the bill, were we ‘slow in coming forward’, was it apathy or just ‘not the done thing’?I didn’t reach any particular conclusion, however, felt strongly that we should try and address it. In discussion with Wendy Nicholson, Professional lead for School Nursing at the Department of Health, who shared the same views, we identified a colleague who we felt wholeheartedly deserved strong recognition for her outstanding contribution to nursing and improving the lives of many children and young people.
Testimonials were gathered (they were astounding) and were submitted as part of the nomination. The cogs grind slowly and it’s a very ‘closed’ process and so we waited and waited with crossed fingers. Of course, while this was going on, there was busyness elsewhere that included my family, previous employers, colleagues etc. as a nomination was, unbeknownst to me, also being prepared for submission regarding moi!
The honours system recognises people who have:
They’ll usually have made life better for other people or be outstanding at what they do.
Whether someone gets an honour (and the honour they get) is decided by an honours committee. The committee’s decisions go to the Prime Minister and then to The Queen, who awards the honour.
When a letter arrived in November 2014 addressed to me with Her Majesty’s Government emblazoned on it I put it on my dear husbands pile as he deals with my tax - I thought it was a statement! He, being much more attentive to such matters and recognising that it wasn’t “just another tax letter”, suggested I should open it. I read it, then re-read it, then breathed, then handed it to him. I was totally shocked to receive the letter inviting me to accept an Order of the British Empire (OBE) award in The Queens New Year’s Honours list for 2015.
I never considered myself as someone who would be nominated, be honoured and initially I felt others deserved it more than me. After a somewhat irrational response, I discussed and reflected on this wonderful opportunity and all that it meant to me, my family and the potential opportunities it could bring. Of course I graciously accepted and then had to bury the news deep down inside as we were advised that we were not to share the news until December 31st. In between times I had the occasional bout of excitement but, to be honest, the pressures of work, home and the festive season, left little time for further reflection or to get excited.
We went to Spain as a family for Christmas, flying out on Christmas Eve. Shortly after the news was made public on New years eve,, we told the family. They were delighted and very proud of their mum and her achievements. We had a little celebration meal, the fact we’d kept it secret adding to the delight! We went to bed with the alarm set so we could collect the per-ordered broadsheet newspaper.
It was Twitter that woke us all with the news; some early-bird colleague had scoured the list and shared it across the Twittersphere resulting in copious complimentary and flattering messages of congratulations and support. It was followed by days which turned into weeks of non-stop contact welcoming the news and expressing some very nice views about me and my contribution to nursing, but more importantly, to the health and well-being of children and young people. I feel surrounded by a family I didn’t know I had which makes my work seem so much more possible!
I am still trying to reconcile the enormity of it all; I am truly honoured, privileged and humbled. I will continue working to promote the invaluable profession of School Nursing and in improving the health outcomes of children and young people. I trust the OBE will add credence and strength to all that we strive to achieve.
Reading this year’s list there are indeed an increased number of health professionals, including the colleague we nominated who was awarded an MBE, however, there is undoubtedly room for many more. I’m already contemplating who I will be nominating next time 'round...
Sharon White, OBE
Professional Officer, SAPHNA.