Holiday healthcare heroes: Dental nurse was instrumental in clinic which will roll out across Norfolk and the importance of end of life care

Helen Cowles, dental nurse in children and young people’s and adult specialist services, Norfolk Com

Helen Cowles, dental nurse in children and young peoples and adult specialist services, Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust (NCHC). Photo: NCHC - Credit: NCHC

Throughout advent, we're highlighting those who work hard throughout the year - and at Christmas - to keep Norfolk and Waveney's health service ticking over.

This countdown of those we count on will focus on a different person or individual every day up until Christmas, celebrating our healthcare heroes.

And because it is Christmas Eve, today we are featuring two.

Helen Cowles, dental nurse in children and young people's and adult specialist services, Norfolk Community Health and Care Trust (NCHC)

Helen has proactively developed and established an oral health education clinic within the dental service, which provides oral health education and preventative treatment to patients and their carers.

Rachael Vivian and Amanada Whitehead, specialist palliative care nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospi

Rachael Vivian and Amanada Whitehead, specialist palliative care nurses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Photo: QEH - Credit: QEH

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The clinic has supported the service in reducing its first assessment waiting lists by releasing dentist and therapist capacity.

Patients are now able to access the service faster and therefore reduce further deterioration from point of referral to treatment.

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For this reason, the service will be rolling out across Norfolk.

Since establishing the clinic, Helen has been contacted by other colleagues across the trust to train them to improving their patient's oral health and particularly prevent oral asphyxiation pneumonia which often results in readmission to acute trusts.

Without Helen's enthusiasm and commitment, the clinic would not have been established.

End of life care team, The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn

Christmas is a time for making memories but that is even more important for the families facing the difficult prospect that this will be the final one with a loved one diagnosed with a life limiting disease.

Specialist palliative care nurses Amanda Whitehead and Rachael Vivian will be providing a high standard of care for terminally ill patients while also being a source of support for their families at a time when many of us will be unwrapping our presents.

End of life care helps patients, who are in the final months or years of their lives, to die with dignity and, where possible, in their desired place.

Amanda said: 'Christmas is a time of happiness but poignant for loved ones and the rest of the family as they are aware that it will be their last together. There is often an air of happiness and contentment despite the fragile nature of their illness.

'We have recently been told by a family that we were light in their darkest hours. As time was short they could get on with life as a family, giving all a chance to spend quality time together.

'It is a privilege to be involved with the care of people who are coming to the end of their lives.'

Amanda and Rachael are part of the hospital's end of life care team, which brings together five specialist nurses and a doctor.

The team offers specialist medical knowledge to help manage complex symptoms along with emotional support for the patient and their families.

Amanda, who is employed by Norfolk Community Health and Care but is based at the QEH, said: 'Even the smallest thing you say or do as a nurse can make a big difference to someone. Sometimes it can be hard to know just what to say or how to help a patient who has life threatening illness .You might be unsure of how to talk or are scared of saying the wrong thing, we have found that the best thing is just to be normal.

'It's okay to mention death and dying, talking about preparations for funerals as this will help the patient feel less isolated as they may be thinking about this.

'It is impossible to imagine how families and patients are feeling, however as health professional, patients and families need to know they are not alone.

'The hospital has a nice atmosphere on Christmas Day as all staff do make a tremendous effort for patients.

'It is hard for all staff working Christmas day as they are away from their families and loved ones. My plan is my 13-year-old-daughter and husband are cooking Christmas dinner with me saving the emergency services number on speed dial though.'

• To read about other holiday health heroes, click on a door on the advent calendar above.

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