Community nurse looked beyond labels and ‘held on to hope when I lost mine’

Katie McIlroy has been nominated for the Patient’s Choice award for her dedicated care of women with complex mental and physical healthcare needs

Katie McIlroy

A community nurse shortlisted for the 2021 Patient's Choice award has been described by her nominator as the first person in the mental healthcare system to look beyond the labels she has been given.

Daisy Smith, who has complex mental and physical health needs, says nurse Katie McIlroy makes her ‘feel heard’.

Support to deal with physical and mental health problems

‘Before she took over my care two years ago, I was having a hard time in the mental health system, with multiple care coordinators and admissions,’ Ms Smith says. ‘I also have complex serious physical health issues that are life-threatening. Most mental health professionals see my case history and run, which makes Katie extra special.’

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms Smith's physical health deteriorated significantly, but Ms McIlroy, who works at Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust, provided support for this as well as for her mental health.

‘This was something she didn’t have to do, and she often stays much later than her hours to sort things out,’ says Ms Smith. ‘Katie talks to me and makes me feel heard. She communicates in way that is helpful to me. She has done more for me than anyone ever has and fights for me.

'She has sat with me, comforted me and talked me out of suicide. She has held my hand when I was scared and hearing voices. In the darkest of times, she has given me some light and makes me feel like a human being.

‘She puts my needs first and does what is right by me, not always what is easiest'

Daisy Smith, patient

‘She has shown me she cares consistently, with kindness above and beyond her role. She helped wash my hair after a stroke, made me food when I stopped eating. She lifts my heavy wheelchair in and out of cars because she knows I hate being pushed in the manual chair.’

‘Ms McIlroy has spent much time and effort trying to sort out my physical healthcare with 14 different departments. Once she stayed seven hours after her shift to ensure we got a test result that needed actioning before a bank holiday. This wasn’t her role and no one else would help. Without Katie’s actions I would have become more unwell.’

She says Ms McIlroy has helped with tidying, cooking and cleaning because she knows that having a care agency would cause her more distress.

Read about the rest of our Patient's Choice finalists below, or click here to vote

‘The past year has been unbearable, but Katie has made such a difference’

Ms Smith is also grateful for Ms McIlroy’s mental health expertise. ‘She has spent time working with me when I’ve been in crisis, talking me out of suicide and using her skills to de-escalate a situation instead of calling the police or admitting me to hospital, which caused me trauma previously,’ says Ms Smith. ‘She puts my needs first and does what is right by me, not always what is easiest.

‘Katie deserves this award because working with me is tough – there haven’t been many positives. The past year has been unbearable, but Katie has made such a difference during this time. She has held on to hope when I lost mine, and I am so grateful for her.’

Voting for the Patient’s Choice award is now open. The winner will be announced at an awards ceremony on 12 October. 

Elaine Cole is RCNi special projects editor

The Patient’s Choice award is sponsored by nursing uniform provider Alexandra