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Danielle O Connor Ward 50 Cancer Services, North West Cancer Services

Danielle O’Connor – WT Nightingales - Danielle O'Connor

Nightingale Challenge 2020 Profile: Danielle O’Connor, Deputy Sister, Cancer Services, North West Cancer Centre, Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry

My name is Danielle O’Connor. I am 27 years old and I have been a qualified nurse within Cancer services for 4 years. I was extremely nervous about starting my nursing career as an agency nurse. I began my first shift with the agency as a Staff Nurse on Ward 43 (Oncology/Haemotology) at Altnagelvin Hospital, Londonderry. The nursing staff are amazing in what they did daily especially when they had been caring for a young patient aged 20 and being so resilient to her care needs it inspired me to develop in this area of nursing.

Why did you choose this job?

Ward 43 allowed me to develop in such a wide variety of skills within cancer services. Ward 43 is an acute oncology/haemotology ward with many acutely sick patients that required your assistance to make them feel better clinically and also support them mentally. Whilst the business of the ward was extremely daunting as a newly qualified nurse the support from staff in aiding your skills and qualifications and also the patients with their thanks and gratitude made everything worthwhile.

Fast forward 4 years I am now currently a Band 6 deputy sister within cancer services ward 50 oncology and haemotology. This role is a new change for me allowing me to expand in my skills and develop as a nurse.

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?

Taking up a role as band 6 deputy sister during the covid-19 pandemic has come with many challenges. I am learning not only how to take on the role of a band 6 deputy sister but also learning how what you have learnt as a nurse policies and procedures have all now changed to what you have previously learnt. Policies and procedures are changing on a daily/weekly basis. The checking of blood products, admission pathway, CPR, infection control, visiting policy are one of the few policies that have changed how we undertake our nursing role.

The changing of policies and procedures has placed us in more difficult situations that what we had of liked and were previously taught. However working within team, maintaining effective communication with patients, relatives, multi-disciplinary team and most importantly management allows us to reassure those within our care and also provide the reassurance to ourselves that require.

However whilst Covid-19 has come with many challenges it has also highlighted many benefits. The pandemic has shown us as professionals how much our community respect the role we take by a simple clap on Thursday. The pandemic has highlighted how amazing our NHS is and how lucky we as a community are to have the NHS. Covid-19 has emphasised how amazing our workforce is and how we can work as a team to fight against a world pandemic together.

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 play-ing your role as a nurse/midwife?

During Covid-19 many adaptions have been made with regard to face to face interactions now being made virtual. Due to a reduction in face to face interactions it has allowed me to better support the nursing staff especially those newly qualified and most importantly the patient. Moving forward into the future virtual telephone appointments and meetings is something that will help utilise the time for professionals and the patient.

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

The public have been amazing during the Covid-19 pandemic. They have been patient with regards to visiting on the ward and extremely understanding of the restrictions in place. Relatives have had great reassurance from staff and through daily telephone calling has allowed staff to build relationships with each patient’s relative. The public including the patients have helped prevent the covid-19 outbreak from being more severe by abiding by the guidelines advised by the government especially with regards to isolation.

Danielle is one of 20 nurses and midwives in the Western Trust who are taking part in the Nightingale Challenge. The Nightingale Challenge was launched by Nursing Now – a programme of the Burdett Trust for Nursing, to improve health globally in collaboration with the International Council of Nursing and the World Health Organisation. The Nightingale Challenge asks for every health employer to provide leadership and development training for a group of young nurses and midwives during 2020, the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.