Giving vital home support and care to the families of seriously ill kids... meet NI’s first WellChild nurse
It's a new role that aims to help children and young people in Northern Ireland with complex respiratory conditions to spend more time at home with their families.
The creation of the first WellChild nurse here has been introduced in response to a reported rise in the number of children and young people living with serious or exceptional health needs.
Due to their complex needs it makes it increasingly difficult for families to be together at home.
The post will help improve the lives of families of children who require special support with things like breathing and eating.
Ruth Harte has begun her role based at Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children, which was created by WellChild, the national charity for seriously ill children and made possible through funding from GSK, a science-led global healthcare company.
Ruth works to ensure the process of getting children home from hospital is as smooth as possible and that they are well-supported once there in order to to avoid unnecessary readmissions.
She said: "This role puts me in a unique position of being able to support children and their parents on their journey from hospital to home and to support them back home to help limit the number of times they have to be readmitted wherever possible."
One child who has already benefited is eight-year-old Daire Flanaghan, from Belfast. He was born with Apert Syndrome and has a tracheostomy to help him breathe.
Ruth helps the family with arrangements needed to keep Daire medically safe and supported at home - from helping to source medicines to liaising with hospitals in England when Daire has to travel for operations.
His mum, Collette Flanaghan, said: "Time is of the essence when Daire is not well and Ruth is on hand and able to act quickly so we can quickly get him into hospital when needed to be seen by people who know him and his condition.
"During difficult times with Daire's health, it makes such a difference to me to see Ruth and have a chat and even a shoulder to cry on when needed."
In 2000, four children on ventilation were treated by the regional respiratory team in Northern Ireland.
This had already grown to nearly 50 in 2015 and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust estimates that in the first year of the WellChild Nurse post around 70 families could benefit from Ruth's support.
Ruth added: "I am looking forward to streamlining processes and providing families with a smooth transfer from hospital to home as well as being alongside them to provide emotional and psychosocial support throughout."