Laura Truscott-Wright is one of two WellChild Nurses in Cardiff, and, is the first dedicated parent trainer in Wales.
“My role is to provide parents of children with life-long, or life-limiting conditions, with the training that they need in order for their child to be discharged safely from hospital and for parents to be able to look after them at home,” she says.
“I teach them a range of clinical skills including basic life support, suctioning, tracheostomy care, long term ventilation, enteral feeding, and aseptic non-touch technique.”
Laura is employed by Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and will soon be formally launching a ‘Better at Home Suite’ within Llandough Hospital Children’s Centre as a dedicated space to provide training.
“I’m really excited about this,” says Laura, ‘but also so much of my work takes place out in family homes across Cardiff & the Vale of Glamorgan, with training provided from 8am to 6pm to try to make the service as family-centred as possible.’
Laura began her career at Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2011, and had spent the last four years as a Clinical Educator in Neurosciences, before moving back to her home town of Cardiff to start as Wales’ first WellChild Parent Trainer in February 2020.
Just seven weeks later the UK moved into full lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“This presented some considerable challenges,” says Laura. “Because of the pandemic only one family member could visit a child in hospital at any one time. So, with family agreement, I visited families at home, to train them, wearing full PPE”.
“I also supported with staff training during the pandemic as most children with life-long or life-limiting illnesses needed to isolate or shield for 12 weeks or more.”
So far, despite the pandemic, Laura has trained 179 family members and six private carers - from 76 different families, in a total of 211 sessions.’
“It never fails to amaze me what parents are able take on and learn so that their child can be supported at home” she says. “I feel incredibly inspired by the families that I meet every day”.
“We have to be cautious and careful with the training programme as we have to make sure that everything structured and safe”.
“It gives me so much joy to see families become competent and confident in caring for their children at home”.
“When this job came up it sounded like a dream come true. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not without its challenges and its worries, but I have to stay positive for the families I work with.”
Laura, a graduate of the University of Glamorgan, is no stranger to Tŷ Hafan.
“I did bank shifts at Tŷ Hafan when I was student nurse, between 2010 to 2011,” she says. “I absolutely loved it. I was allocated one child for the day and I got to centre the day around them. Sometimes we would go to Barry Island, sometimes to Techniquest. Other times we would stay in the hospice and do whatever that child wanted to do – and needed to do - on that day. I love how child-centred Tŷ Hafan is.”
More recently, Laura has also provided nasogastric tube training to a family at Tŷ Hafan, supporting them in caring for their seriously ill little daughter.
“The family were from overseas and the parents were in Wales due to their studies. Thanks to them being able to use and pass a nasogastric tube safely (in addition to the support received from the specialists at Tŷ Hafan), the child got to travel home to meet her siblings. I was so saddened to hear that she passed away a few weeks later, but it meant so much to her parents to be able to safely fly her home.”
Laura found out she had won the RCN Suzanne Goodall Paediatric Nursing Award 2021 at a virtual ceremony on 10 November.
The award celebrates the achievements of paediatric nurses who play a key role in assessing children’s nursing and other healthcare needs, taking into account their medical, social, cultural and family circumstances. Paediatric nurses plan and deliver care in a variety of settings, within hospitals and in the wider community. In addition to supporting children and young people, paediatric nurses work with families as part of a multidisciplinary team.
“I was so shocked when I won,” says Laura. “I was not expecting it at all!”
“After being shortlisted I’d had a panel interview for the Award – and the panel included Deborah Ho, Director of Care from Tŷ Hafan. She was so lovely and it was an honour to have even got to that stage”.
“But when I saw Becky McDonald, (a paediatric palliative care nurse / community children’s nurse with Hywel Dda University Health Board, who was named runner-up) was also shortlisted, I thought there was absolutely no way at all that I would win. I attended a virtual palliative care conference recently and was fortunate enough to hear a talk by Becky. She is a very deserving winner”.
“The awards night itself was amazing – it was so inspiring to hear everyone’s stories. Winning this award is the best thing that’s happened to me in my career”.
“Since then I have been talking to one of the Cystic Fibrosis nurses, who is a previous winner of this award and she agrees that it is the highlight of her career too.”
Now Laura has ambitions to expand the service further.
“I’d like to be able to support more people by expanding my professional network. I noticed that some of the other award winners have similar professional interests, there are so many crossovers that we could work collaboratively on”.
“I’d also like to continue to develop virtual video resources such as an app or a website for families, so that there is one place they can go to for all the information, training resources and online support that they need.”
Deb Ho, Director of Care for Tŷ Hafan, said: “I had the privilege of chairing the panel of judges of this year’s RCN Wales Suzanne Goodall Paediatric Palliative Care Nursing Award. The standard of all the entries was exceptionally high, a fact made all the more remarkable by the impact that the pandemic has had on all of us and our ability to deliver care in often very challenging circumstances.
“I would like to congratulate Laura, our 2021 award winner. Her commitment to drive and achieve excellence in paediatric palliative care is outstanding, and she is already a real innovator in her field. I feel confident that Suzanne Goodall, our inspirational founder, would be thrilled with this decision. I look forward to watching Laura progress in her career and seeing the impact of the work on the lives of children with life-limiting conditions and their families in Wales.”