Coffee Break with Janette Cochrane
5th August 2021
Take a break and get to know Tissue Viability Nurse,
Q.1 – What do you do and why do you do it?
I am a Tissue Viability Nurse and for those that do not know what this is, we look after skin integrity by trying to prevent damage to the skin and provide expertise on the management of complex wounds. This is quite a diverse speciality and we see people from all walks of life in hospital, community and clinics and from all age. We not only provide a service to patients but also support the staff by providing advice and training on an ongoing basis. Part of our role is to help provide staff with the tools to maintain standards of care. We also have to keep up to date on the latest research in relation to wound management and regularly trial new treatments to see what benefits they may provide for our patients, especially those with more chronic conditions.
I started off in the health service as a Nursing Auxiliary over 30 years ago and while at that time I did not realise how great my interest in wounds was I can still how fascinating it was to watch the nurses manage complex wounds. I just knew I wanted to be a nurse and enjoyed every aspect of my training. It was not until I got a job back in the Belfast City Hospital as a qualified nurse and was asked to be the Link Nurse for Tissue Viability for the ward that I realised this is really what I wanted to do. I was then lucky enough to get the opportunity to cover Tissue Viability during a maternity leave, which whilst at first was very nerve wrecking allowed me to enhance my skills. I also completed a post graduate certificate in Tissue Viability, supported by the Trust and eventually managed to get a full time permanent post and have been working in Tissue viability now for over 19 years.
Q.2 – How do patients benefit from what you do?
For my patients my ultimate goal would be to see their wounds healed, especially for someone with a Cancer diagnosis when it can mean the difference between them getting further treatment (chemo or radiotherapy) or not. It can be heart-breaking at times when despite our best efforts they miss what can be a narrow window of opportunity, but thankfully this is few and far between.
Sometimes we help to get the patient a correct diagnosis in relation to what is going on with their skin and one of our classic things is a patient being treated as having leg ulcers sometimes for years that turns out to be a venous eczema, which is a Dermatological condition. Getting these people on the right treatment, can in some instances be life changing and that is without exaggeration, as I have seen people who have been totally miserable, in pain with wet soggy dressings who do not want to go out or participate in life. They can within in a couple of weeks completely change as they are pain free, no longer wet and happier in themselves.
There are of course occasions when healing may not be realistic and it is about listening to what the patient wants and how their condition is impacting on their life in order that we can tailor our management to help. All of what we do is within the remit of the multi-professional team and it is about knowing who to call upon and when. Addressing things like pain or odour can make the difference in someone being able to cope with what will be a lifelong problem and getting on with their life.
Q.3 – Tell us about a typical day at work?
Not sure that any day is typical but patient care is our priority. We run our own nurse led clinics but also participate in consultant clinics providing input on the best way to manage their wounds be they a recent surgical wound or the more chronic wounds. Occasionally I would go to theatre with the surgical consultant to give input on how to manage a wound. There may be scheduled teaching sessions which could range from an hour to all day depending on the subject and the audience.
I also manage a team so have to fit in management duties such as rotas, staff development and training. There may also be meetings to attend, whether on a ward to discuss an incident, with a rep to look at a new product or about a patient, planning future care.
Q.4. – If one of your patients or staff was sitting with you right now what is the best piece of advice you could give them?
For the patient I would tell them to make simple changes they can stick to, to help their condition and try to build on these gradually. For staff I would tell them to listen to what is important to the patient and tailor your plan around what they want and need.
Q.5. – Tell us about the satisfaction you get from your job?
To say I love my job is a bit of an understatement. Helping people and making a genuine difference to their life can be so satisfying. Meeting people from all walks of life who have such interesting stories to tell makes every day different. Seeing how sometimes just doing something very simple can make such a difference. Building relationships with other staff throughout the Trust and building a network of colleagues who can provide help and support has been so essential. Seeing the diversity of conditions that affect people and learning how to manage these, means I can never become stagnant. I work within a great team of girls who share the same passion for what we do and provide help and support to each other as well.
Q.6. –Tell us a little about your life outside of work?
Life outside of work can be as busy as in work! I am a wife, mother to two grown up children and a grandmother to two boys aged four and 10. I also help to look after my elderly mother. Family is very important and we try to spend time together whenever possible, going for walks, eating out or just spending time at my daughter’s caravan together. My husband and I also enjoy going on holiday and hope we will be able to resume this again soon! We enjoy cruising or escorted tours but one of the best places we went to was South Korea when my son was working and living there, a wonderful experience I hope to repeat some day.