Portlaoise Paediatric Nurse Elaine O’Brien Doyle is officially Ireland’s Nurse of the Year, having being nominated by one of her young patients.
She picked up her award at the recent SMA Know-how Maternity and Infant Awards at the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin, hosted by Sybil Mulcahy and Martin King from TV3’s Morning Show, cheered on by her proud family and by her young patient, eight-year-old Sophie Rowland.
Nurse O’Brien Doyle, from the Block Road is a clinical nurse specialist in paediatrics, and has worked in Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise since 1991. The mother of four is a Portlaoise native, married to Richard Doyle, with four children, all born in the hospital that she trained and now works in.
She was “absolutely astounded” to have won the award, which has never gone to a nurse outside of Dublin.
“I was overwhelmed, it was a huge honour. The day was very enjoyable but nervewracking on stage,” she smiled, praising her “fantastic support team” in paediatrics.
The recently built unit is getting busier all the time she says.
“Numbers are increasing month on month, referrals have never been so high, it is a tough job, but I love it,” says Nurse O’Brien Doyle, who cares in particular for medically dependent patients with complex needs.
Sophie aged 8 from Roscrea, has spent a lot of time in the hospital under her care, as she copes with multiple illnesses, including a bowel condition, epilepsy, asthma and joint pain.
Sophie was born prematurely on Friday 13 Febuary 2004, and staff in Portlaoise’s maternity unit knew something was wrong straight away, because her little tummy was extended. She was sent to Crumlin children’s hospital in Dublin where she immediately underwent surgery for a volvulus of the bowel.
She was quite well for the next few years, but at the age of six she went through two surgeries within weeks of each other, and since then has been under the care of Nurse O’Brien Doyle. With two open wounds after surgery, the family made many visits to paediatrics in Portlaoise.
Over that time, the nurse has become an essential part of Sophie’s life, not just helping her through various illnesses and operations, but forming a firm bond of friendship and support, making herself available any time the family need advice. She uses a mobile phone to maintain contact with her patients.
“Texting is an important part of communication for me, especially for my non-English or deaf clients,” she said.
Sophie is full of praise for Nurse O’Brien Doyle.
“I think she’s the best nurse, she takes care of me really well,” she said.
Sophie is so fond of her nurse, that often she will give her little gifts and drawings.
“When I heard about these awards, I suggested she should write and tell them her story. We were thrilled to get the phone call last month saying she had won,” says Ann Marie, who works as an SNA in a Roscrea school.
The annual awards celebrate the great achievements of children, parents, grandparents and medical professionals, and also recognise leading maternity products and services throughout the country. all voted for by the public.
Sophie enjoyed her big day in the Shelbourne, getting to wear a beautiful new dress and bringing along her precious teddy Molly for company.
“I liked everything about the day, I didn’t want it to be over. I want to vote for my mammy next year,” she said.
It was an emotional day for Ann Marie, as with the audience she watched a slideshow about Sophie, her only child.
“It was emotional but nice, especially hearing everyone else’s stories, and seeing Elaine get her reward. Sophie relaxed once the cameras had gone, and Sybil Mulcahy took her by the hand around the room introducing her to all the celebrities,” she said.
The moment their nurse got her award was a proud one.
“It was great to see her family there and how proud they were of her. She is the sort of person who doesn’t like the limelight, so it was wonderful to see her get recognition. It was lovely to think we were behind that, that we could have done that for her. She will never know what her help means for us as parents, and we were so proud to be able to give something back,” said Ann Marie, who attended with her husband Mark.
Ann Marie says they couldn’t have got through the past few years without without Nurse O’Brien Doyle.
“Whatever I ask Elaine to do, she will never leave a stone unturned, she is so dedicated, she gives 110 per cent. I can’t praise her enough, she is brilliant, she really has gone beyond the call of duty. If Sophie is having a hard time, and maybe doesn’t want more surgery or medication, Elaine will talk to her and take the time to explain things really clearly. She has such a way, a connection with Sophie, that really helps when you have a sick child,” she said.
Despite her ongoing medical problems, Sophie has managed to keep up with her schoolmates, and is in third class in Dromakeenan NS.
“She is quite intelligent, she reads a lot when she is sick. She says she wants to be a nurse just like Elaine,” her proud mum said.
The awards ceremony will be shown on TV3 on Monday December 10 at 3.30pm.
For full list of award winners, see www.maternity&infant.ie