Publish date: 25 June 2021

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Leila Hail and Gema Martinez-Garcia, lead nurses for infection prevention and control (IPC) at UCLH have been announced as finalists for the 2021 Royal College of Nursing (RCN) Awards. The awards shortlist showcases the best of nursing and the profession’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Leila and Gema are finalists in the Outstanding Contribution to Infection Prevention and Control category, which is being sponsored by INEOS Hygienics. 

The awards cover all aspects of nursing, including how, through commitment and innovation, nurses have developed existing services and created new ones in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leila and Gema worked with our electronic health record analysts to customise the IPC module within UCLH’s electronic health record, Epic. They used their expertise to create an innovative design embedding IPC practices within the electronic system, using technology as an interactive resource to implement gold standard IPC. This includes automated features intended to reduce human errors and facilitate collaborative working amongst teams in real time. These features facilitated the detection of COVID-19 cases through virtual heat maps, identifying the prevalence within the organisation, and the ability to carry out contact tracing. It became invaluable during the pandemic in reducing transmission risks and the potential for outbreaks.   

Leila Hail, lead infection prevention control nurse at UCLH, said: “It is a real honour for Gema and I to have been shortlisted as finalists given the number of entries and the contributions nurses have made throughout the pandemic. When our electronic health record was being modified, with the support of our supplier Epic and the performance team, we took the opportunity to design a system that incorporated the way IPC nurses work in a UK healthcare setting that did not exist before, taking into account ward designs which include bays and side room prioritisation. The IPC module has been an incredible tool during the pandemic. There are many benefits to electronic health records if customised and used appropriately. By incorporating key IPC data and reporting, our aim has been to streamline, prioritise and focus actions for an early intervention in infection prevention and control to have a significant impact on patient safety and care.”

The finalists were chosen from 550 entries, and one category winner will be receive the coveted title of RCN Nurse of the Year 2021 at an awards ceremony on 12 October.

Gill Gaskin, medical director for digital healthcare said: “It is wonderful to see our expert nursing staff bringing their creativity and knowledge and enthusiasm to get the very best out of our electronic health record at a really challenging time.”

Flo Panel-Coates, UCLH chief nurse, said: “Huge congratulations to Leila Hail and Gema Martinez-Garcia for being selected as finalists in the Royal College of Nursing Awards. The COVID-19 pandemic presented us with the biggest infection control challenge we have ever had to face. Designing and implementing their innovative IPC module to work within UCLH’s electronic healthcare system and across our hospitals has been absolutely vital in reducing the risk of transmission and helping to protect our patients and staff.”

Acting RCN general secretary Pat Cullen said: “This shortlist highlights nursing’s response to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, but also highlights what we do – day in, day out – to improve the health and well-being of our patients.

 “These finalists demonstrate the very best in nursing and I am so proud of all of them.”

Foundation of Nursing Studies chief executive and awards judging panel chair Joanne Bosanquet said: “The quality of entries was so high and it was near impossible to choose our finalists from the amazing work submitted.

“The shortlist showcases excellence and recognises the huge difference that the nursing team makes to people’s lives throughout the UK – not least their enormous contribution to the pandemic response.”