Two nurses from London have been praised for their "outstanding" efforts in promoting inclusion and support for colleagues from ethnic minorities at their workplaces.

Mercedes Miguel, a community stroke clinical nurse specialist in south London, and Julia Gangata, a cath lab sister at Harefield Hospital, were named joint winners of this year’s Rising Star Awards by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN).

The recognitions formed part of the RCN's celebrations of Black History Month this October, and reflected the pair's remarkable efforts in supporting colleagues from Black, Asian, Latino and other minorities at work.

"The winners were recognised for championing culture change and acting as role models; educating and mentoring colleagues to create more inclusive and supportive working environments; and for using their own experience to bring about meaningful improvements in services for their patients, particularly patients from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background," a spokesperson for the RCN said.

Mercedes people and their families impacted by a stroke. During a wave of protests last year led by the Black Lives Matter movement, Mercedes worked with the community clinical psychologist to create support groups for staff that provide education and guidance on the views of Black, Asian and minority ethnic patients. These continue today as monthly support groups.

"I am humbled to have received the RCN London Rising Star Award," she said. "I am very grateful to be working with the community stroke team as we offer and advocate equitable access for all individuals and their families in the community. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, our team has worked together and re-organised priorities to ensure patient safety. Each individual on the team has been flexible and adaptable in these circumstances and we continue to look after each other as a family."

Julia for her part has worked at Harefield Hospital, that's managed by St Guy's and St Thomas' NHS, for almost 15 years. Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit she was appointed as her department’s debrief "champion", and the RCN said she was "instrumental" in implementing improvements to the service. Julia a;so served as a mentor to numerous junior nurses and nursing students from a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background.

"I feel honoured and grateful to have won the RCN London Rising Star Award. To me this award belongs to the amazing cath lab team which embraces diversity and offers equal opportunities to all individuals regardless of race, ethnicity, religious beliefs or sexual orientation," Julia said. "Throughout the pandemic, our team has shown a lot of resilience and managed to adapt to the ever-transforming ways of working while putting patient safety and staff wellbeing at the forefront. This is a team that I am proud to belong to, which has learnt to embrace one another, providing the best quality care to our patients."