Meet the nursing staff supporting patients at a specialist cancer centre in south Wales
Velindre University NHS Trust is as well-known in Cardiff as the River Taff and you’ll hear it discussed with a mixture of reverence and fear.
Open a newspaper and you’ll read about support from rugby stars; in the pub you’re likely to bump into someone looking for sponsorship for a Velindre fundraiser; turn on the television and you’ll see a programme featuring the ground-breaking work the hospital does. If you live in south Wales you’ll almost certainly know about the brilliant work the nurses and doctors do.
But when patients first come to Velindre, they’re not usually met by nurses or doctors. They’re met by the staff who patients get to know best when they’re feeling their worst. They’re met by Velindre’s health care support workers (HCSWs): Velindre’s VIPs.
Registered nurses Hannah Russon and Laura Davies work at the trust and want to ensure HCSWs get the recognition they deserve. Together they organised a day specifically for HCSWs to find out more about the training opportunities available to them and to celebrate their essential but all too often over-looked work.
“HCSWs are the backbone of Velindre,” says Hannah. “Working together we make a strong team. However tough our work is, we make sure we’re there for each other as well as the patients.”
Laura adds: “Having worked as a HCSW before becoming a nurse I’m well aware of the impact they have on the quality of care that’s delivered.”
The go-to guy
Mervyn reflects on his role as a HCSW at Velindre
“My role is to support other nursing staff and doctors to provide a high standard of care and treatment for inpatients and their families. I help patients with personal hygiene, going to the toilet, eating, doing observations, checking patients’ pressure areas and reporting any changes to whoever’s in charge. I’m also responsible for keeping any paperwork up-to-date and keeping the stores stocked. I’m the go-to guy when anyone is looking for anything!
“A HCSW is usually the first person a new patient and their family meet when they arrive on the ward and we’re here to help them settle in and feel at ease. I make sure they understand what’s going to happen and explain the layout of the ward and hospital.
I hope at the end of my shift I’ve done the best I can and made patients feel comfortable, relaxed, and secure
“I also mentor new HCSWs, showing them their duties and explaining their roles. I always take the time to explain to them that it’s OK to say you’re not confident or unable to carry out a task. We’re here to help each other and work to each other’s strengths and weaknesses. I enjoy supporting others to develop their skills and have even helped registered nurses to develop their cannulation and phlebotomy skills.
“We spend a lot of time with patients. Many us have been in our roles for a long time so we have vast experience and know the way the wards are run. Registered nurses seem to have more and more paperwork to complete so they rely on us to report any changes or issues to them.
“I look forward to coming into work each day and hope at the end of my shift I’ve done the best I can and made patients feel comfortable, relaxed, and secure. My job can be tough and emotional but I’m part of a huge team of people who are all very supportive of each other and who I know I can turn to for help, support or a good moan.
“I’m a practical person and competent in my skills and this is something I know the registered nurses appreciate. They know they can rely and depend on competent and experienced HCSWs to carry out their duties while they get on with their own work. I’m lucky to be in a job I have always wanted to do; a job I love.”
"A simple gesture can change a person's day"
Alex is inspired by her team
“On an ordinary day I spend my time caring for patients. I take the handover, look at the general list, and walk the wards - I know some of the patients well. I do the observations, washing, skin checks, making beds. It can take half an hour to 40 minutes for each wash but we have the time to do that. You don’t get that time elsewhere. We know that a simple gesture can change a person’s day.
“A few years ago I was there when a young woman was told her mum only had days to live. She was obviously devastated and didn’t want to see her father until she had told him as well. So while he was given the awful news, we went to a quiet room. It seemed like a small thing but she named me in her thank you card and to this day I have that card attached to the wall at home.
“I’m not just a HCSW. I’m also a friend, a beautician and a therapist. I love what I do and it’s not just a job. The atmosphere is really special and each day I walk in I still get that same adrenaline buzz I had years ago. We’re not perfect; we’re human. I’m inspired by my team. The patients at Velindre get the care I’d want my mum and dad to get.”