Laura Blake, a healthcare assistant at Cross Lane Hospital, part of Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys NHS Foundation Trust, developed the carers liaison service when visits to wards were stopped during the pandemic.
She has been selected from hundreds of entries as a finalist in the Commitment to Carers category of the RCN Nursing Awards 2022, and will find out if she has won at a ceremony on Thursday October 6 at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge Hotel in London.
Laura contacts carers when the person they care for is first admitted to the hospital and gives them updates, provides their feedback to the multidisciplinary team and supports the carer during the hospital stay and in any meetings they might be invited to.
Her drive to constantly develop her role has seen her work grow into a carers network, where she offers online peer support groups where carers can share their experiences.
She said: “Effective communication and emotional support ensures that our carers feel valued, informed and involved in their loved one’s care.
“This is achieved in numerous ways, such as empathic listening, effective communication, signposting to outside agencies and liaising with other professionals to achieve a timely and effective admission.
“I also offer one-to-one support with our carers which provides them with a safe space to express their thoughts and feelings.
“I feel grateful and privileged to be nominated for such a meaningful award that recognises carers and the challenges they may face.”
Rowan Lea ward manager, Karen Ashby, said: “Over the covid lockdown and isolation period, Rowan Lea was hit hard. This period of isolation was something that hit carers even harder and we recognised that we needed to do something a little different and creative to support carers.
“Laura has a ‘commitment to carers’ link role on the ward and she embraced the challenge and creative way of working. She commits time to contacting carers individually offering counselling and 1-1 support, sharing information, liaising with other professionals and signposting.
“This has had such a positive impact on the ward. Laura is that one consistent person that carers and families have contact with. It has freed up nursing time and supported with consistent communication from the ward to carers and families.
“’We are so thrilled and excited for Laura.”
RCN general secretary and chief executive Pat Cullen, said: “This shortlist showcases the very best of nursing and highlights the work we do day in, day out to improve the health and well-being of our patients. I am so proud of all of these finalists.”
The Foundation of Nursing Studies is the event’s charity partner this year. Its chief executive and chair of the awards judging panel Joanne Bosanquet, said: “The quality of entries again this year was so high and it was near impossible to choose our finalists from the creative and innovative work submitted. The shortlist showcases excellence and recognises the enormous difference that nurses make to people’s lives throughout the UK.”
NHS England experience of care lead – community, primary and integrated care Jen Kenward said: ‘We know that about 6,000 people become carers every day, taking on care and support of family members and friends. Without their vital input, our health and care systems would be unsustainable.’