A modest hero for Nurses' Day

The theme of this year's Nurses' Day is nursing heroes and the winner of the Patient’s Choice category in 2017's RCNi Nurse Awards, Joanna O'Toole, undoubtedly has a heroic story to tell.

Nurses' Day has become an increasingly significant date in the nursing calendar, with colleagues from around the world coming together to celebrate the profession

This year’s theme in the UK is nursing heroes, of which there are many. Indeed, there is something inherently heroic about the everyday activity of nurses everywhere, especially those battling to deliver the best possible care in systems that seem set up to hinder rather than help.

Other nurse heroes include those who overcome difficult personal circumstances while ensuring that their patients continue to receive outstanding care. One such example is Joanna O’Toole, a children’s respiratory nurse in Manchester and winner of the Patient’s Choice category in the 2017 RCNi Nurse Awards.

Remarkable story

Ms O’Toole’s story is astonishing, even though she downplays it herself with a typical nurse’s modesty.

The Patient’s Choice award works like this: RCNi seeks nominations from patients and their loved ones on behalf of nurses who have made a real difference to their experience of care. Unsurprisingly we are inundated, but a shortlist of five is chosen, the candidates are featured by Nursing Standard and Smooth Radio, and a public vote begins.

Ms O’Toole was nominated by Lesley Chan, whose 12-year-old daughter Amelie has Charge syndrome. Fittingly given the theme for Nurses’ Day, she says: ‘Jo will forever be in our hearts as a fabulous, considerate and caring nurse. She is our hero for her real commitment to the NHS and families like ours who have complex children and need strong nursing advocacy and support.’

Living her life

What makes Ms O’Toole’s story all the more remarkable is that she is ill herself, having been diagnosed with breast cancer ten years ago, and again three years later.

In 2016 she received the news that she has multiple secondaries, and was not expected to see in the New Year. Now, as she puts it herself, she is living her life like she teaches her young patients who have limited life expectancy.

‘I have always encouraged them to live their lives not wait around. They have taught me an awful lot in terms of how to manage the situation. I believe that is why I am doing so much better than anyone expected.’

What a hero.

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