A Salford Royal Hospital nurse has been shortlisted for a prestigious national award for helping a woman cope with the death of her twin sister.
Entries to the Yakult Patients Choice category of the Nursing Standard Nurse Awards are put forward by patients who believe their nurse has gone far and beyond their role to provide exceptional care.
The public can vote for their favourite finalist, with the result announced at a glittering ceremony at the Savoy Hotel in London on May 1.
Having a twin is a very strong and special bond, so Tracy Mattison was bereft when her sister passed away in November 2013.
She nominated bereavement liaison nurse specialist Melanie McDougall for the warm, inspiring and professional way she helped her through that difficult time.
‘When Melanie invited me in to the bereavement centre to chat about the help she could offer, I was struck by her ability to put me at ease. We sat for the next two hours – I was crying my heart out while Melanie patiently comforted me.’
Over the next few months the nurse became Tracy’s safe place to talk about Karen's death and her trusted source of support. ‘Melanie made the effort to understand my feelings,’ says Tracy. ‘Once she gave me a quote she saw that made her think of me. I was touched by the kindness of that gesture.’
Melanie arranged for Tracy to have a photo where she is holding Karen's hand. ‘It is something I cherish,’ says Tracy, ‘and a lasting reminder that Karen knew I was with her so she died surrounded by love. Melanie puts her heart into it and genuinely cares. She has been the catalyst to providing families with keepsakes from their loved ones.’
Not only did Melanie recognise Tracy’s needs, she also suggested ways to help her son Sean remember his aunt in a positive way. She gave a memory book for children to record memories and encourage discussions. ‘I have worked through this with Sean and filled it with favourite photos; it is something we both treasure.’
Tracy cites many times that her nurse ‘went above and beyond for her’ but for her, one stands out as typical of her dedication. ‘With Melanie's encouragement I sought therapy for long-standing childhood issues which Karen's death brought into focus.
‘I was offered an initial appointment to determine my suitability, but was worried I couldn't explain all the issues affecting me. Without hesitation Melanie offered to accompany me. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that Melanie was prepared to put herself out to help me away from the hospital and after hours.’
More than a year on, the impact of Melanie’s support for Tracy has been enormous. She can look at photos of her twin and smile and remember the good times they shared. And she now sees holding Karen's hand as she passed away as an honour.
‘Without Melanie's support I don't think I could have got to where I am now and I can't thank her enough. She is too humble to accept thanks and so nominating her for the Patient’s Choice award is a fitting way to express my gratitude for the difference she has made to my life.’
Melanie, who joined the bereavement service two years ago, said nomination was humbling and ‘gave her goose bumps’.
‘I am delighted but genuinely feel I did what I should be doing, she adds. ‘For Tracy to share what I difference I may have made to her journey is a massive undertaking on her behalf.
‘Being a twin – Tracy has always been one of two. To walk alongside her in her grief has been a privilege – I know I gave her time and space to just be herself and she trusted me. Really she deserves this for what she has been through.’
It is not the first time that the work of the bereavement and donation service has been recognised in the Nursing Standard Nurse Awards. In 2011 Fiona Murphy was named nurse of the year for setting up the service, improving bereavement care and significantly increasing tissue donations. Since winning the accolade, Fiona’s service has grown enormously. It is now supporting 19 trusts that are implementing her model of nurse led bereavement care.
Proud Fiona is ‘over the moon’ that Melanie has been chosen as a finalist in the awards.
‘This accolade is very deserved,’ she says. ‘She was the trust’s nurse of the year after just six months in her post. She is a brilliant role model for other nurses and healthcare professionals.
‘When I first approached her about being just what the bereavement service needed, her first words were that she was not asking people for tissue donations. ‘I don’t like that and I don’t think it is right’, she told me. Now she is the strongest advocate of bereavement and donation.’
Voting is open from April 1 to 29. Vote online, by text or phone call.
To vote for Melanie
Call 0845 6530195* and select D
Text NURSE followed by a space and the letter D to 81025 **
Vote online at www.nurseawards.co.uk/740
*Call costs vary according to the caller’s network
** Texts are charged at normal network rate