Denise Cowling meets people when they are at one of the lowest and most upsetting times of their life.
But the caring Doncaster NHS ‘angel’ helps them through terminal illness, to help them die as peacefully as possible with their loved ones, and helps their families through the pain and upset of their loss.
Denise, from Bessacarr, is a MacMillan palliative care specialist nurse.
And she has an award for being the most caring and compassionate of all the staff at the Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals – a prize for which she was nominated by one of her patients’ families.
Denise was one of the health heroes honoured at the annual DBHT Stars annual awards, compered by television presenter Harry Gration, at the Keepmoat Stadium on Thursday night.
Denise was nominated by a member of the public, after she had supported one of their relatives through a long period of illness, eventually helping them to go home to pass away peacefully.
She kept in touch with the family, explained the patient’s wishes, allayed their concerns, and event contacted other serves for them. They told hospital bosses they would not have been able to deal with the emotional toll of the sitation without Denise’s help. The man’s son had been concerned he could not cope with looking after him at home for his final days, but Denise went out of her way to help him.
Denise, aged 56, has been a nurse since 1991, and spent many years as a district nurse.But after losing her own mum Maureen Davis, four ago, she decided she wanted to hep others going through what she had to go through.
She said: “It made me realise what a difference you can make by the small things you do for people,” she said. “You can make it the right environment, and show care and compassion. It is about helping make sure that people are losing someone in a good way. Having all the support they need makes a big difference.
“My mum had dementia for a number of years. People were good with me. She came to hospital in the end and died quite quickly.
“It means so much to me to win the award. After I picked it up, I texted the man who nominated me, with the message ‘this is for your dad’.
“My mum use to work in a hospital kitchen. She’d be so proud.”
Karen Lanaghan, end of life care co-ordinator at the trust, said: “This job was just made for Denise. She is superb at what she does and thinks about every single patient as though they were her own family.”
The awards night also saw a shared award for Volunteer of the Year, for the trust’s newly formed Butterfly Volunteers.
They have been specially trained to provide companionship and support to those in their last days of their life. They helped 112 patients in just over a year.
Suzy Brain England OBE, chairman of the board of governors at DBTH, said: “These awards are one of our most important events of the year. We know that our staff make some outstanding contributions to healthcare every day and this is our opportunity to get together and celebrate these achievements so they know their efforts have not gone unnoticed.
“Each time I attend the ceremony I am inspired by the remarkable stories of how members of Team DBTH have gone that extra mile to show they care about our patients, about their colleagues and about the people of Doncaster and Bassetlaw.
“I want to congratulate all of our winners and nominees. While there could only be a handful of victors tonight, there were no losers because when we achieve as individuals, teams and as an organisation, our patients truly win.”
Leader of the Year: Pauline Foulstone. Pillar of the Jasmine Centre, often working after hours to make time for others
Unsung Hero of the Year: Donna Farmer. General office supervisor, Dedicated to helping colleagues get fit, set up a support group and coached a small running club.
Teaching Hospital Award (Research): Su McIlwaine. Hand specialist occupational therapist who has provided people to take part in research into thumb splints.
Teaching Hospital Award (Education): Aimi Dillon. Education lead who has set up a scheme to help newly qualified nurses get used to the practical side of the job.
Rising Star Award: Richard Fenton, data systems manager who has brought in a data tool which brings in £25,000 per month to the trust
Star of the Year: Curtis Gracey. Nurse who is keen to improve his knowledge and provide best possible care, and now helping teach others.
Leading Improvement Award: Dr Prakash Subedi. Brought in a new specialist training system for doctors which is said to be improving the emergency department.
Caring and Compassionate Star: Denise Cowling, Palliative care specialist nurse who makes a difference for those in her care
Volunteer of the Year: Butterfly Volunteers. Providing companionship and support for dying parients.
Collaboration and Partnership Award: 100 Day Challenge Project Team. Bringing in changes to outpatient services who were ‘always pushing for new solutions and answers’
Team of the Year (Medical and Clinical): Ward B6. Made a success of the merger of wards A5 abd B6 at short notice and worked hard to learn new skills and overcome any difficulties.
Team of the Year (Clinical support and corporate staff): IT Development Team. Brought in new system which brought patient information from various sources together, speeding up the healthcare process.
Chair’s Award: 100 Day Challenge Project Team.