A NURSE who works at the Macmillan Unit at Antrim Hospital has said it is a ‘privilege’ to support people as they enter the final stages of their illness.
Palliative Care Clinical Nurse Specialist Lisa Cassidy give an insight into the vital work of the dedicated team to mark International Nurses’ Day this week.
In her free time, Lisa enjoys walking along the shores of Lough Neagh with her husband and two young children - but hers is no ordinary nine to five job.
Yet she would not have it any other way - though she very nearly took a different path.
“Like many little girls, I aspired to be a nurse when I got older, however the idea of this appeared to waiver during my late teens,” she said.
“I proceeded with an entirely different university degree but did not feel a connection to the course in full.
“I went on a holiday and met a group of girls whom were all qualified nurses; this re-ignited my interest in nursing.
“I could see we were similar like-minded people with similar personalities and core values. At that point I realised nursing was exactly the right profession for me to pursue.”
And that’s when the hard work began for Lisa.
“Following successful completion of my nursing degree at Queens University, my passion lay within palliative care.
“My first post was as a staff nurse in the Northern Ireland Hospice inpatient unit. It was clear to me this was exactly the right path I should follow and afforded many opportunities for my own continued professional development.
“I completed the Princess Alice European Certificate in Essential Palliative care. From this I progressed to Post Graduate diploma in Specialist Practice Palliative Care.
“I have worked as a Specialist Palliative Care Nurse both within the community setting and in recent years, the acute hospital setting.
“Last year I completed the Non-Medical Prescribing course, which has been a great addition to my role for the benefit of the patients I work with. Nursing will always be life-long learning.”
The work can be challenging, but ultimately rewarding.
“I work as a Macmillan Specialist Palliative care nurse at Antrim Area Hospital.
“This involves the provision of specialist advice and support for patients and families experiencing complex palliative care symptoms.
“Symptoms can include physical, psychological, social or spiritual needs.
“As a team, we support patients at many different stages of their journey, which can include end of life care.
“We also support the staff caring for patients on the wards as they endeavour to meet the palliative care needs of patients.
“This can involve advice and signposting on a daily basis including teaching sessions, which we hold regularly within the Trust.”
The emphasis is always on supporting patients and their families at a difficult time. For Lisa, that is the best part of her job.
“Walking alongside patients and families at various different stages of their illness and identifying what I can do to help and support them through their experience.
“Being able to witness a patients quality of life improve as a result of changes you have made to medications or the support you have given them will always inspire me to continue to do the job that I do.
“ It is an honour to do this role and meeting patients and families at such a crucial stage of their life.”
But what is the most difficult aspect of the job?
“It is a very emotive role as you witness people face the most difficult of circumstances and demonstrating such courage.
“Each individual patient and family’s own personal story will always move me.
“I recognise the importance in self-care as part of processing such emotions and work within a supportive team.”
She added: “Our role is to provide safe and effective care, working very closely with patients and their families in doing this.
“We support people during their most vulnerable moments and witness them face the most difficult of circumstances.
“This places us in a very trusted position and in turn affords us to be the best patient advocate.
“This will always be the greatest privilege of our nursing profession.”
Her children could not be more proud of their mum.
“My children’s description of my job as a nurse brings me the greatest pride, ‘you make people feel better’. To be able to do this is invaluable.
“One of my favourite quotes is: ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel’.
“I feel very proud of the team I work with particularly during the last few years as we supported one another in our roles during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We were very proud to have received a Macmillan award for excellence recently. The award category was entitled, ‘Whatever It Takes’ and for us as a team this summed up exactly what our goal was for our patient group during these unprecedented and challenging times.
“Working as a Macmillan nurse is incredibly meaningful.
“Each patient and their family are unique and therefore assessment of their needs presents different challenges each day.
“We want to help people live as well as possible with their cancer aiming for the best quality of life achievable.
“Any difference that come as result of our support for patients and their loved ones fulfils our very purpose.”