It has been nine months now since I left the NHS and joined Hugh James and I feel like I am adjusting to this new role.
As a Mesothelioma/Lung Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist at Guy’s Hospital, I looked after over 70 mesothelioma patients and well over 200 lung cancer patients.
A common theme expressed by Lung Cancer Nurses is ‘firefighting’. There was little time to be proactive and I never really felt I was able to give patients the time they needed to go through information and provide support at what is a devastating time in their life.
I knew there were gaps in the service between hospital and home but never had the time to investigate what these gaps were.
Since joining to Hugh James, after an initial period of settling and adjustment, I have been able to develop the role of Mesothelioma Nurse Advisor – with the support of Richard Green and Mary Mulhall.
I visit patients, who are clients of the firm, in their homes and undertake nursing care assessments which form part of the client compensation claim. Having a nurse complete the care assessments has often led to clients receiving higher levels of care costs as part of their compensation.
I am able to use the skills I have gained in nursing, and through my qualification in physical assessments, to assess a client’s physical function and ability and map out more accurate care requirements for present and future care and cost these using real world costs from local care agencies.
I am also able to talk through with clients and their families about equipment that they can either purchase or ask the district nurses to provide to ensure that clients have pressure relieving equipment and other aids to help maintain independence in the home setting.
With one client, I called the local Palliative Care Team to ask for a home visit as he really needed an urgent package of care and equipment in the home. I also called the local GP to alert them to the fact the client was reaching end of life and the wife was struggling as she had her own disability. This client received a home visit from Palliative Care within 48 hours and was provided with a hospital bed and carers. He died a few days later but at least he was comfortable and his symptoms from the mesothelioma were better controlled.
An important part of my role has been to advise and support clients and their families on planning for the future – writing advance care plans and having conversations on death and dying.
Many clients are keen to talk about end-of-life concerns but often do not know how to open up these conversations without causing distress to their family members. Enabling clients to have these conversations in the privacy and dignity of their own homes has proved to be of great value and the feedback received has been amazing.
With one client, I visited just to go through advance care plans with him and his wife. We discussed what dying may be like and he wanted to go through his funeral service with me. We had a wonderful conversation about end of life and I was also able to provide support to his wife about what happens when someone dies due to mesothelioma, such as the role of the Coroner. This client fed back that I had provided them with peace, and he too died a few days later.
It is such a privilege to be invited into people’s homes and for them to trust you and share their fears, anxieties and hopes about deeply personal matters. I think as a nurse, the public place great trust in us and our role and it is something I have always valued very highly.
I have also been able to work collaboratively with Lung Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialists across the country and provide them with education and advice on the care of mesothelioma patients.
One of the first things I did when I came into post was to work with Mary Mulhall to set up a Mesothelioma Masterclass in London. This was a free event for all lung cancer and oncology nurses across London, Kent and Essex. Thanks to professional relationships developed whilst a Mesothelioma/Lung Cancer Nurse Specialist at Guy’s Hospital, I was able to bring a number of experts in the field of mesothelioma to present on the landscape of mesothelioma and treatments.
I feel immensely proud to work for a law firm that values its clients so highly and recognises the need to provide a holistic service and has taken the unprecedented step of employing a Mesothelioma Nurse Advisor.