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Patient’s Choice 2021: posthumous award for tireless patient advocate and supporter

Inspirational nurse Paul Murray honoured by many for his dedication to patient care

  • Nurse practitioner Paul Murray was nominated for the Patient’s Choice Award by a record number of patients and families
  • Many described a nurse who went above and beyond for his patients, offering support from hospital admission to post-discharge
  • Mr Murray’s patients, colleagues and family describe his commitment to outstanding care and the support he provided to those around him
Paul Murray

An inspirational nurse practitioner whose sudden death this year ‘left a massive hole’ has won one of nursing’s top accolades after a public vote.

‘Wonderful and knowledgeable’ Paul Murray was named the winner of the Patient’s Choice category at the RCN Nursing Awards 2021, after being nominated by scores of patients and receiving thousands of votes.

Helping patients from treatment through to end of life

The award – sponsored by workwear specialist Alexandra – gives patients the opportunity to thank a nurse who has made a difference to their life or that of a loved one.

Mr Murray, who worked at Causeway Hospital in Coleraine, Northern Ireland, died following a cardiac arrest in February, after nursing for 25 years.

The people who nominated him described many occasions on which the surgical nurse practitioner went above and beyond for them, their carers and families.

Mr Murray provided care and followed up referrals, even for patients who were not on his ward. He updated patients and their families from the time they arrived at Causeway Hospital, through tests and treatment to discharge and often afterwards, in his own time.

Nothing was too much trouble for patients

He went out of his way to get things done for patients quickly and effectively, working tirelessly to make sure patients with a cancer diagnosis were able to spend as much time as possible at home with their families.

‘At times, I thought he was crazy for suggesting ideas to help get patients home but, no matter what, he was able to carry them out’

Caoimhe Dillon, nurse practitioner and colleague

Mr Murray was not afraid to push the system as far as he could for patients, whether it was allowing friends in after visiting hours to see a woman who had a terminal illness, or getting a helicopter to take a man at the end of life to Scotland so he could die at home with his family.

The patients who nominated him pointed out that nothing was ever too much trouble for Mr Murray, and that he made people feel like they were the only patient on the ward.

Reassurance and support whenever I needed it

Paul Murray’s patient Sean Lamont writes:

'I was diagnosed with bowel cancer in May 2019. I needed radiotherapy, bowel surgery and six months of chemotherapy. I struggled to accept the diagnosis and was totally devastated to learn that I would also need an ileostomy.

‘Paul took me step by step through what was going to happen, answered all my questions and totally reassured me. He gave me his phone number and told me that I could ring him anytime – I did so on many occasions, which was never a problem.

‘He even came to the ward to tell me difficult news on his day off, because he knew it would be easier coming from him.’

Calm approach during a difficult time

Former patient William Millar recalls how when he ‘was not in a good place’ and in hospital for two weeks, Mr Murray paid for and brought him the Guardian newspaper every day.

‘He did everything on his wards,’ says Mr Millar. ‘He was the glue that brought everyone together. He would have the phone in one hand talking to another hospital to sort out a bed for a patient, while taking off bed sheets with the other hand in preparation for a new patient. A regular thing I heard was “Better ask Paul Murray – he’ll know what to do”.’

Scans and tests led to Mr Millar’s early diagnosis with pancreatic cancer, which his son Jonathan had died of four months before.

He says: ‘Mr Murray was always so reassuring with his calm approach. When I left hospital, he came to my home to do my COVID-19 test before I could start my chemotherapy, so that I didn’t have to travel to Belfast, as I don’t have a vehicle.

‘One week before he died, he even drove me for my treatment so I didn’t have to use the train – it was a round trip of more than 120 miles.’

Mr Millar recalls how passionate Mr Murray was about the NHS. ‘He knew what was needed to help a patient,’ he adds. ‘He could get things done and made patients like me feel special. He didn’t think that anything was impossible.’

‘He knew how precious time with her family was’

Vera Bell, whose daughter Linda was diagnosed with terminal cancer in her stomach in her early forties, writes:

‘Mr Murray made Linda feel less frightened. It wasn’t his responsibility but he went out of his way to save her from journeys to Belfast when her GP was unable to provide the COVID-19 tests she needed. He got her the tests and then kept in contact with a friend to check how she was getting on.

‘In the later stages of her illness, when Linda was in hospital, he let her friends come in and see her after hours as he knew how precious time with her family was during visiting hours.

‘And one time when two doctors could not get access to her veins and Mr Murray had gone home, he came back in so she could get the intravenous antibiotics she needed.’

Paul Murray with his wife Leanne and son Elliot

‘He did it out of kindness, empathy and compassion’

Mr Murray’s widow Leanne says her husband excelled in all his nursing roles.

‘The outpouring of love and grief for him from colleagues, former patients and their relatives when he died was overwhelming,’ she says. ‘Paul had no idea the impact he had on those he met and cared for. He simply did it out of care, kindness, empathy and compassion – all values that an outstanding nurse should have.’

She adds that as well as working through lockdown and being the carer and shopper for his parents, in-laws and shielding wife, he spent his spare time raising funds to provide support for NHS colleagues affected by COVID-19.

‘Even though he felt unwell, Paul went back in to see a patient who was upset about their diagnosis, as he couldn’t bear to leave her feeling like that. He reassured her that tomorrow would be a better day. It was his last day at work’

Leanne Murray

‘He reassured patients and always looked for the positive in any situation,’ Ms Murray recalls. ‘He stayed on long after his shifts ended to complete tasks and care for patients who needed help. He rang colleagues at work to check on patients’ progress when off duty and often took phone calls at home.

‘I found out recently about a woman who was upset about her diagnosis. Even though he felt unwell, Paul went back in to see her as he couldn’t bear to leave her feeling like that. He reassured her that tomorrow would be a better day for her and left. It was his last day at work.

‘That’s who he was. Our son Elliot and I are so proud of him, and the nurse he was throughout his lifetime.’

‘Everything was achievable’

Mr Murray’s colleagues also praised his passion, sense of humour and commitment.

‘He had the ability to change everyone’s day without even realising he was doing it,’ says nurse practitioner Caoimhe Dillon.

‘A patient might be worrying about going to theatre but Paul reassured them, comforted them and by the end of the conversation the patient would be laughing, no longer nervous about what was ahead.

‘Paul recognised the pressures staff were under and he would cheer the team up and carry out tasks to alleviate the pressures without making a fuss about it,’ adds Ms Dillon.

‘Everything was achievable. At times, I thought he was crazy for suggesting ideas to help get patients home but, no matter what, he was able to carry them out.’

Read about the rest of our Patient’s Choice Award finalists
Mr Murray and colleague Caoimhe Dillon

Ongoing care and support as we recovered from our injuries

Patient Iris McConaghie describes the care she and her husband Hughie received from Paul Murray:

‘Hughie and I were involved in a serious road accident in February 2020 and admitted to Causeway Hospital with extensive injuries.

‘It is hard to put into words everything Paul did for us, from ensuring we had adequate pain relief to calling to check on us on his days off. We were totally overwhelmed by his care and attention. Nothing was ever too much trouble.

‘When we were discharged from hospital Paul continued to ensure we received the care we needed – not an easy task, given we were entering lockdown. He continued to support us in our recovery and we know that had it not been for Paul, neither of us would have come through our injuries the way we did.’

Record number of nominations for one individual

The Patient’s Choice Award is sponsored by Alexandra. Senior director for commercial sales and business operations Tina Graves says: ‘All the finalists are exemplars of what it means to wear the nursing uniform with pride, compassion and selfless dedication to this amazing profession, which has been challenged so much over the past 18 months.

‘We were all blown away and moved beyond words by the nominations – indeed the record number of nominations – for the late Paul Murray who personified the term “going above and beyond” for his patients over 25 years in nursing.’

Find out about all our 2021 award winners

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

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