Patient’s Choice: Cancer team helped my dying daughter live life to the full

A nursing professor praises the team who enabled her daughter to have a 'good death'

A nursing professor praises the team who enabled her daughter to have a good death as she nominates them for the prestigious Patient’s Choice award at this year’s RCNi Nurse Awards

A professor of nursing has nominated the nurses who looked after her 24-year-old daughter from the time of her colorectal cancer diagnosis until she died 14 months later 

Fiona Irvine says the care given to her daughter Primrose by the team at the teenage and young adult unit at Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in the Wirral was outstanding.

She says clinical nurse specialist for teenagers and young adults Lucy Jane Taylor and senior staff nurses Luke Millward-Browning, Charlotte Edgar, Natalie Jones, Joanne Connell and Sarah Smith had excellent clinical skills and were confident in their practice and highly skilled in the delivery of care.

‘For Primrose, this meant that even in times of crisis she could feel confident that she was receiving the best care possible,’ says Ms Irvine. ‘The nursing staff were accomplished communicators. They treated Prim with respect, sought out and valued her opinion on all aspects of her care, and took care to ensure that her dignity was not compromised.’

‘Because they went above and beyond the call of duty and showed commitment and the courage to be flexible, they helped to ensure that the quality of Primrose’s life was the best it could be’

Fiona Irvine

Importantly, they combined this with an informality that helped Primrose to feel relaxed and assured that she was being cared for by friends. ‘There were times during her admissions that Primrose was in extreme and unmanageable pain and at these points the level of compassion demonstrated by the nurses was exceptional,’ says Ms Irvine, head of nursing at the University of Birmingham.

In the year after her diagnosis Primrose got married, spent time out with friends and travelled abroad several times – all accomplished because of the encouragement she felt from the team’s support.

‘They completely understood her need to live life to the full and were highly flexible about fitting in chemo, visiting her at home, arranging appointments, taking bloods to ensure she was safe before embarking on her next adventure and being available on the phone if she needed advice or help.

‘They should feel proud. Because they went above and beyond the call of duty and showed commitment and the courage to be flexible, they helped to ensure that the quality of Primrose’s life was the best it could be.’

She says because of that commitment, Primrose managed to have a ‘good death’.

‘As Primrose died on the unit, the care and compassion shown to us all was remarkable. We were given the space we needed to spend valuable and intimate time with Prim and yet her physical, psychological and spiritual needs were fully addressed at all times.’

She adds: ‘Prim never wanted to spend time in hospital but she once told me that when she was on the unit she felt loved.’

Don’t let the cancer rule

Lucy Taylor says the nomination is ‘mind-blowing’ for the team.

‘It is humbling that even in such a tragic situation Fiona thought of us and found the time to write the nomination,’ she says. 'Being nominated by someone who is a nurse themselves makes it extra special.’

Providing such care is a team effort, she says. ‘It is a collaboration, with everyone working hard to achieve this for our young people.

‘We all go out of our way to get to know our young people and build a relationship with them so we can help them do the most they can. You don’t want the cancer to rule their life. That is our aim.

‘We strive to work around our young people’s lives, and we could do that for Primrose. She managed to achieve so much in such a short time. She was such a lovely girl. I used to joke with Primrose that she should call me her secretary as I was always changing chemo dates because she was so busy.

‘I am so pleased that what we did made a difference in her life. It is why we came into nursing – to help people and make a difference. It is nice that hear that we have achieved this and someone has seen that we go above and beyond to do so.’

Inspirational stories

The Patient’s Choice award, sponsored by Yakult, enables members of the public to thank a nurse, midwife, health visitor, healthcare assistant or assistant practitioner who has delivered exceptional care.

A public vote is currently under way to choose the winner of this prestigious award, in which patients nominate a nurse whose care has had an enormous impact on their lives.

The five moving and inspirational stories of excellent and compassionate care shortlisted for the Patient’s Choice category of the RCNi Nurse Awards 2018 feature nurses from general practice, acute care and the community who have improved their patients’ lives and in one case helped them have a good death.

Voting is now closed. The winner will be announced at the RCNi Nurse Awards ceremony in London on 4 July. Find out more at nurseawards.co.uk

The RCNi Patient’s Choice award is sponsored by Yakult

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