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Caring Cherith a winner with judges

By Victoria O'Hara

A specialist nurse whose "compassion and dedication" in her work helped improve the lives of patients battling cancer has been named Northern Ireland Nurse of the Year.

Cherith Semple from Newtownards scooped the top award at the annual event organised by the Royal College of Nursing Northern Ireland after impressing judges with how her research improved aftercare for people with head and neck cancer.

Cherith, a Macmillan health and neck clinical nurse specialist at the Ulster Hospital, Dundonald used a questionnaire on an iPad to help the patients.

The feedback was gathered from clinics and used to guide out-patient visits. This resulted in a follow-up telephone aftercare service being introduced. The pilot project was in response to patients reporting that they felt most vulnerable following discharge from hospital.

Cherith (41) said it helped patients to develop skills and confidence for self-surveillance, and enabled fast-track referral to the follow-up clinics.

"The patient comes in and meets a volunteer and completes the questionnaire," she explained. "They key in the concerns and are relayed to myself and a clinician on an ipad."

Cherith said that among the common concerns for people recovering from head and neck cancer express were the fear of the cancer coming back, issues about pain or speech worries.

"It is empowering patients and one of the key things is ensuring the patient is an active participant in their own care," she said.

Cherith, who said she was "overwhelmed" at winning the title, added: "What keeps me on the frontline is trying to provide the best service possible. Often they are a group of patients who we don't hear very much about although they have immense needs."

RCN Northern Ireland director Janice Smyth said: "Our winner is an outstanding example of a nurse who has used her own research to inform changes in her practice for the benefit of patients.

"Cherith has made an inspirational contribution to developing care for patients with head and neck cancers."

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