Student nurse who held hands of dying Covid patients given award – Health News Scotland

Nurse Joanna MacDonald
Joanna was often the last face some of her patients saw as their families were unable to attend their bedside at the height of the pandemic. (Image supplied)

A STUDENT nurse who was thrust onto the Covid-19 frontline has been given a prestigious nursing award in recognition of her efforts.

Joanna MacDonald from Haddington, East Lothian described how she “held patients hands while dying” when their families were unable to be at their side because of the pandemic.

The Edinburgh Napier student was on placement in the emergency department at Borders General Hospital and recently announced as the winner of the University’s Simon Pullin Award for 2020.

Joanna said: “My compassionate caring skills were vital in a period when families and carers were not allowed into the department.

“On numerous occasions it was my gloved hand these patients were holding and not their families whilst they were seriously unwell or dying.

“At times I found the role overwhelming but I soon grew into it and made an active effort to do all that I could to ensure the patients experienced my compassionate care at such an important time.”

The Simon Pullin Award was established to recognise the human side of nursing and midwifery.

Nurse with family
Her achievement is all the more impressive considering she qualified whilst bringing up her two daughters. (Image supplied)

It was created in memory of Senior Nurse Simon Pullin, who played a key role in the University’s Compassionate Care Programme up until his death from cancer in July 2011.

Joanna, who graduated this week with a Bachelor of Nursing (Adult) degree, was named this year’s winner after impressing university and external assessors with a sensitively written submission about her experiences.

Joanna studied for her degree while also bringing up daughters Poppy, 9 and Flora, 5.

She said: “I always made time for the small things such as ensuring the elderly men would have a shave and be in matching pyjamas or clothes for the morning visiting. Or that the elderly ladies had their hair combed the way they liked it and a spritz of perfume too!”

The 32-year-old also worked t with patients who were having pregnancies terminated or treatment for cancer, and also worked  on a palliative care ward for patients nearing the end of their lives.

Joanna added: “Ensuring that each of the patients in my care had a dignified and comfortable death was important to me.”

Joanna, who has just taken up a post as a staff nurse at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, said she was honoured and proud to be named this year’s winner of the Simon Pullin Award.

“Care and compassion are important aspects of the NHS values and something I am always mindful of upholding with the patients in my care. Reflecting on my journey in gaining these skills was a proud moment too to see how far I have come in the past few years.”

Dr Stephen Smith, a senior lecturer at the university and Honorary Nurse Consultant in Compassionate Care with NHS Lothian, said: “Joanna received exceptional feedback from staff in clinical practice and staff in the university.

“All the feedback pointed to core learning and development in the provision of compassionate care, very particularly knowing that it is the seemingly small things that matter to each individual.”