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Lisa Meehan, Deputy Nurse, North West Cancer Centre

Lisa Meehan – WT Nightingales - Lisa Meehan - WT Nightingales

Western Trust Nightingales 2020 Challenge Staff Profile: Lisa Meehan, Staff Nurse, North West Cancer Centre, Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry.
Tell us about yourself and your work (eg family, job, length of time in post)

I have been qualified as a staff nurse for ten years. I graduated as a learning disability nurse in 2010. However, I have always had a keen interest in the general field of nursing. I qualified as an Adult Nurse in 2014 and have worked in the North West Cancer Centre since 2015. I have worked in the out-patient department, the oncology/haematology ward, radiotherapy and my current role is within the chemotherapy unit. I am married to Clarke and we have one daughter Claudia who is two and a half.

Why did you choose this job?

I knew from a very young age that I always wanted to be a nurse, nursing is not just a profession, it is a vocation. I was very fortunate that I was offered my first nursing post in Cancer Services. I feel very lucky to work in this area and to be a part of the patient’s journey during their chemotherapy treatment.

I know it has been a particularly challenging couple of months for all health care workers due to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Can you explain what has changed in your role? What are the best and most challenging aspects of the job?

From a nurse’s point of view, I personally feel that there have been many barriers and challenges within the job role. One challenge that I have found very difficult, is newly diagnosed patients starting their treatment without friends or family present, due to the current pandemic, the number of visitors has been restricted to minimise the spread of Covid19, I understand how difficult and worrying this may be for patients, although we as nurses are always there to reassure and support each individual patient during their treatment. As a nurse it is vital that we help prevent the spread of infections and to keep our patients safe within our clinical area. I am one of the infection control link nurses within my area, this can be challenging as I must ensure that staff are adhering to strict handwashing prior to all procedures. The patient group that I work with have less effective immune systems because of their treatment or condition and therefore are at a higher risk of developing Covid19.

This is the Year of the Nurse/Midwife and although many plans to celebrate has been significantly curtailed due to COVID – what makes you proud to be playing your role as a nurse/midwife?

Within my work setting I have various reasons that make me feel very proud. Firstly I am very proud of the staff I work alongside; we have all pulled together, offering extra support to each other significantly throughout this worrying time. On another note, I am and continue to be amazed by the strength and courage of our patients every day during such an uncertain time for the health care system. The NHS as a whole has made me very proud to be a nurse, no one ever expected a pandemic to occur and affect our health system so significantly, and how all health care professionals have adapted so quickly to the new changes has been very remarkable.

All health care staff has risen to the challenges faced by this global pandemic. Many traditional services have had to be stopped or done in a different way either via telephone or virtual clinics. Have you experienced this in your role and how do you think this has or hasn’t worked?

Many aspects within the job have changed. Face to face consultations with doctors and nurses where possible have been arranged and discussed virtually; many patients have felt this has worked well as travel time has been reduced and they feel they are safer at home not having to attend an outpatient appointment. Although, some patients have found not being reviewed in person by a doctor more worrying. However, as nurses we try to accommodate each patient to their individual needs and within their best interest.

Looking forward to the next year or so – what would you like to see achieved in Health and Social Care?

I would like to see Health and Social Care Services resume to normal. Due to the pandemic some of our services had to be put on hold, for example, the Outreach clinic in Omagh. This is a service that is delivered to patients from the Tyrone and Fermanagh area to reduce travel time to Altnagelvin. Although, Outreach has just been re-introduced over the past few weeks, it is at a reduced rate. It is hoped it will be fully operational within the coming months.

How does your work help in the overall delivery of Health and Social Care services?
Please also include any particular personal messages of how you, your colleagues have supported each other during this global health crisis.

We have a wonderful team in cancer services including our team lead who has displayed great strength and decision making in ensuring the cancer centre is as safe as possible for staff and patients. I feel that everyone has really stepped up during these difficult months. Everyone has adapted in these challenging circumstances to provide the safest patient centred care. Looking back on the last few months, staff have sacrificed their personal life, to help keep their own family and patients safe. As I have noted already, it is really remarkable how everyone within the NHS has pulled together and supported everyone, adapting to this pandemic.

What advice would you give to the public on how they can help the NHS deal with the ongoing pandemic in the months ahead?

Be responsible, be safe. As public health restrictions are lifted, proper hand washing, respiratory hygiene and social distancing are even more important. We are still at risk of a large surge of infection. Everyone should use their judgement and follow Government advice.