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Healthcare assistant’s passion and enthusiasm shine through

Cemlyn Roberts, who significantly improved care for people with learning difficulties through an individualised and kind approach to taking bloods, has been recognised with a prestigious RCNi Nurse Award.
Cemlyn Roberts

A healthcare assistant who significantly improved care for people with learning disabilities through an individualised, gentler approach to taking blood has been recognised with a prestigious RCNi Nurse Award.

Cemlyn Roberts, who works for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, won the RCN Healthcare Assistant category of the awards, the professions top accolade for nursing excellence.

The patient, kind and caring health liaison healthcare support worker carries out the majority of the blood desensitisation referrals to his team.

Communication skills

He was nominated by his line manager for his excellent approach and communication skills in supporting patients who have learning disabilities and show challenging behaviour, particularly those on the

A healthcare assistant who significantly improved care for people with learning disabilities through an individualised, gentler approach to taking blood has been recognised with a prestigious RCNi Nurse Award.

Cemlyn Roberts, who works for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, won the RCN Healthcare Assistant category of the awards, the profession’s top accolade for nursing excellence.

The ‘patient, kind and caring’ health liaison healthcare support worker carries out the majority of the blood desensitisation referrals to his team.


Cemlyn Roberts: ‘I feel honoured and overwhelmed at this recognition.’ Picture: Neil O’Connor

Communication skills

He was nominated by his line manager for his excellent approach and communication skills in supporting patients who have learning disabilities and show challenging behaviour, particularly those on the autistic spectrum. He has had considerable success with patients who have not had blood taken previously.

Cemlyn’s colleagues praised his ability to recognise individual patients’ needs, and how he speaks with patients and anyone closely involved in their care to identify any anxieties and strategies to reduce them.

His approach has reduced the use of sedation and, because of their positive experiences, patients are less anxious the next time they have blood taken.

‘I enjoy the ability to support people who have learning disabilities and educate them to take a more proactive approach and make informed decisions about their healthcare’

Cemlyn Roberts

Cemlyn says: ‘I feel honoured and overwhelmed at this recognition for the service I provide. 

‘When I joined the community health liaison team in 2010 the healthcare assistant role was in its infancy. Over the past seven years I have helped to develop it into what it is today.

‘I enjoy the ability to support people who have learning disabilities and educate them to take a more proactive approach.’

This has included developing accessible information about complicated surgical procedures to help people understand and make informed decisions about their care.

Well Man programme

As well as his desensitisation programme, Cemlyn compiled and delivered a Well Man health promotion programme for men with a learning disability that has been rolled out across Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire. He supports service users who are newly diagnosed with diabetes to follow a healthy lifestyle, providing training, easy-to-read information, menu planning and shopping lists. He also educates staff and families who support an adult with a learning disability.

Cemlyn directly supports people with a learning disability who have been sectioned under the Mental Health Act who require a period of assessment and treatment in an acute hospital, and helps the patient engage with therapeutic services. He shares best practice with staff, attends the weekly ward rounds and multidisciplinary team meetings and helps ensure discharge planning is safe.


Cemlyn Roberts and community nurse Cheryl Thomas guide Bethan Williams through a venepuncture prodecure. Picture: Neil O’Connor 

Positive difference

His line manager, locality matron for health liaison Kim Scandariato says: ‘Cemlyn has made a positive difference to a number of service users who have required bloods taken. This has also had an effect on how they access other health services, for example reducing their anxieties around going to GP appointments and hospitals.

‘Cemlyn’s work also means that individuals do not need to be sedated to have bloods taken and ensures that the majority are not anxious the next time blood needs to be taken.

‘His service is very much appreciated by professionals within the community learning disability teams. Their time can be spent carrying out other interventions as they do not have to do blood desensitisation work that can take a couple of months to complete.’ 

‘Cemlyn impressed the judges with his commitment, patience, determination and creativity in the strategies he implemented to enable people with a learning disability to overcome their fears in relation to having venepuncture’

Margaret Sneddon

She points to one case in which a patient who had a moderate to severe learning disability had been physically deteriorating for a number of months. The GP had requested blood tests.

The man often displayed aggressive and challenging behaviours when anxious, but Cemlyn worked with him patiently, using flash cards and showing him the equipment that would be used. He progressed to putting a tourniquet on the man and took him for a number of visits to the clinic room until eventually the patient tolerated having blood taken without any need for sedation. Since then the man has had a number of blood tests without any problems.

‘Amazing patience’

University of Glasgow honorary senior research fellow Margaret Sneddon, who was on the nurse awards judging panel, says: ‘Cemlyn impressed the judges with his commitment to the initiative, his patience, determination and creativity in the strategies he implemented to enable people with a learning disability to overcome their fears in relation to having venepuncture.

‘His communication skills and ability to relate to individuals, recognising their unique needs, has been key to the success of the initiative.’

Specialist judge Lorraine Hicking-Woodison, who works for West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group, agrees. She says: ‘Cemlyn is a modest person, but when he talks about the work he undertakes to help people with learning disabilities to have a blood test, his passion and enthusiasm shine through.

‘He has a caring approach and amazing patience. He has been instrumental in setting up the service and adapting it to meet his patients’ needs. His service could work across all settings and for all patients that struggle to have their bloods taken.’

Despite achieving an impressive 98% success rate with his blood desensitisation audit, Cemlyn continues to push to improve. High on his to-do list is to publish his blood desensitisation work and do an audit plus expand his Well Man group programme to Anglesey and North and South Gwynedd.

He says: ‘I am very proud to have been recognised for my work with this nurse award and that my team members nominated me. But I am most proud of the way I am able to empower adults with a learning disability to access much-needed health tests and information. I enjoy supporting them to have choice.’

Elaine Cooney – highly commended

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 rare cancer pseudomyxoma peritonei, and their families.

She spent her own time and money decorating the dark and dingy relatives’ room at Basingstoke Hospital’s intensive care unit. It is now a bright, warm and inviting space with comfortable sofas, offering relatives waiting up to 14 hours for news a priceless chance for peer support.

Elaine attends work in her own time to prepare patients and their relatives 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 pre-operative visits to the intensive therapy unit (ITU) for patients and their loved ones to help reduce their anxiety. They also help with problems for patients 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’

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

She was nominated by Elaine Ward, who worked in the same trust at the time. ‘Basingstoke is only one of 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, 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 the 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.’

 

 

The Healthcare Assistant award is sponsored by the Royal College of Nursing

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