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Gold standard support for patients with rare cancer

Healthcare assistant Elaine Cooney, highly commended at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2017 for improving the experience of patients with a rare cancer, gives up  her own time to make sure patients and their families are prepared for hospital
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Healthcare assistant Elaine Cooney, highly commended at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2017 for improving the experience of patients with a rare cancer, gives up her own time to make sure patients and their families are prepared for hospital

A healthcare assistants work to improve the experience of patients with a rare cancer was highly commended at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2017.

Elaine Cooney, who works for Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was recognised in the RCN Healthcare Assistant category for her work supporting patients with pseudomyxoma peritonei and their families.

She spent her own time and money decorating the dark and dingy relatives room in Basingstoke Hospitals intensive care unit. The room is now a bright, warm and inviting space with comfortable sofas that offers sanctuary and a priceless opportunity for peer support

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Healthcare assistant Elaine Cooney, highly commended at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2017 for improving the experience of patients with a rare cancer, gives up her own time to make sure patients and their families are prepared for hospital

cooney
Elaine Cooney: demonstrating NHS values     Picture: David Gee

A healthcare assistant’s work to improve the experience of patients with a rare cancer was highly commended at the RCNi Nurse Awards 2017.

Elaine Cooney, who works for Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was recognised in the RCN Healthcare Assistant category for her work supporting patients with pseudomyxoma peritonei and their families.

She spent her own time and money decorating the dark and dingy relatives’ room in Basingstoke Hospital’s intensive care unit. The room is now a bright, warm and inviting space with comfortable sofas that offers sanctuary and a priceless opportunity for peer support for relatives waiting hours for news of their loved ones.

Elaine also attends work in her own time to prepare patients and their relatives for treatment and discuss their anxieties. To ensure these visits are effective she surveyed more than 200 patients, and produced an abstract and poster presentation that has earned her an invitation to a conference in the US.

Easing anxiety

She says: ‘I took an early interest in the pseudomyxoma patients when I started working in critical care and saw how unique they were.

‘I implemented preoperative visits to the intensive therapy unit (ITU) for patients and their loved ones to help reduce their anxiety. The visits also help patients with problems post-operatively, such as delirium and hallucinations, and improve their overall experience.

‘I approached my line manager and asked her if I could come in on my days off to do these visits as I believed that they were of great benefit to families and patients’ recovery.

Overwhelmed and honoured

Elaine says she feels ‘overwhelmed and honoured’ to have been highly commended for an RCNi Nurse Award. ‘It is an incredible feeling, I cannot stop smiling,’ she says. ‘My work means a lot to me and it is amazing for it to be recognised in this way.’

She was nominated by former colleague Elaine Ward, who worked in the trust at the time. ‘Basingstoke is one of only two hospitals in the country that provides the treatment for peritoneal malignancies and, due to pressures of work, patients were not able to visit ITU before their surgery,’ says Ms Ward, who is currently consultant nurse in the emergency department of Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust.

‘Elaine felt that this was unacceptable and was concerned that the patients were not prepared for the sheer amount of drips and drains that they would have and the length of surgery that would be endured by their relatives.

‘As well as improving the relatives’ room, she is warm and approachable and provides relatives with an outlet to discuss their anxieties. She demonstrates gold standard NHS values. I have never met a better advocate for patient care. Elaine is incredible.’

Factfile: Pseudomyxoma peritonei

  • Pseudomyxoma peritonei is a rare type of cancer that usually begins in the appendix as a polyp. More rarely it can start in the bowel, ovary or bladder.
  • It doesn’t act like most cancers and doesn’t spread through the bloodstream or the lymphatic system.
  • Instead, the polyp spreads cancerous cells through the appendix wall to the peritoneum, the lining of the abdominal cavity. These cancerous cells produce mucus, which collects in the abdomen as a jelly-like fluid called mucin. 
  • Pseudomyxoma peritonei develops slowly and it may be many years before the patient has any symptoms. These include abdominal or pelvic pain, abdominal swelling and bloating, changes in bowel habits and inability to conceive.
  • Treatment options include surgery and chemotherapy.

Source: Cancer Research UK


 

The RCN Healthcare Assistant Award is sponsored by the RCN

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