If you’ve met Joanne Breslin, chances are it was during a particularly difficult time in your life.
Working in the intensive care unit in Altnagelvin Hospital, Joanne’s role as a nurse is not only critical for the patients she cares for, but also for families who are living through difficult days.
It is this care which led to Joanne being nominated and winning the Patient Choice Award from the Royal College of Nursing.
Joanne was nominated by a professor or Orthopaedic surgery from Newcastle. The man’s mother was a patient Joanne cared for in her last days at ICU.
“I had cared for his mum during the last 48 hours of her life,” explained Joanne, who has been nursing for the past two and a half years.
Judges said Joanne went through to the finals because of the “true compassion, respect and dignity” that she demonstrated whilst caring for the nominator’s mother.
The nominator describes how it was apparent from an early stage of admission that his mother was, sadly, coming towards the end of her life.
Joanne cared for his mother over a 48-hour period, talking to her despite the fact that she was unconscious. He describes how she showed her “absolute dignity and was truly human in her kindness and nursing care”.
He says: “I found this demonstration of humanity to be exemplary and moving”.
The nominator also praised the way in which Joanne communicated with him and his family, explaining carefully and patiently the care his mother was receiving, and helping his father in particular to overcome his fears.
He says: “As a cynical trauma surgeon, I was humbled to watch her care.”
The judging panel felt that: “Joanne epitomises everything that is good about nursing. She is fearless in pursuing and achieving best outcomes for patients and families”, describing her as ‘a true patient advocate’.”
Joanne said winning this award was particularly special given that she had been nominated by a patient.
“Because it is from a patient and because you are a nurse, it makes it all that more special,” she said.
“That someone thought to nominate me because of the care I gave someone else is amazing.”
It’s a tough job but Joanne says she wouldn’t do anything else.
“Working in intensive care you see people at their worst, there is no two ways about it,” she said. “Even when people leave intensive care they are often not totally recovered and are being moved to another ward.
“What I love are the days when we see great progress.
“And it’s great when you see people move forward. It can be watching them starting to breathe on their own or lifting their arm. But the other side is that there are often a lot of mortalities. We are only human and as a nurse you feel the loss.”
Joanne believes the way that families are catered for in the ICU with a special quiet room, living room and kitchen helps them cope with the ordeal of the hospital stay.
“The living room makes it like a mini home from home,” she said. “It might not be home but it is comfortable.”
Joanne said as hard as her job can be at times she could never do anything else.
“It’s the best job,” she said.
“It is rewarding. It can be challenging and it can be frustrating but it is the best job in the world.”