Coleraine nurse Joanne Currie is passionate about nursing especially her chosen path of palliative care

our cq magazine Mar 27, 2023
Joanne Currie

From an early age, Joanne Currie knew that nursing was her true calling and 23 years after first setting out on her career path at Queen’s University, Belfast where she achieved a BSc Hons in nursing, she is as passionate as ever about nursing, in particular palliative care.

“For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a nurse, I always loved helping people,” said 44-year old Joanne. “Having qualified in 2000 I began working as a band 5 staff nurse in the acute medical ward in the Causeway Hospital and I also worked within an acute surgical ward for a period of time in the NHSCT (Northern Health & Social Care Trust).”

Joanne's true passion emerged during her ten years as a community staff nurse where she discovered her love for palliative care. She admired the work of specialist palliative care nurses both in hospitals and communities and knew that she wanted to be part of it.

“For me it’s about supporting people at the most traumatic time in their lives and being able to be there for the patient and their family and caring for them. It’s about knowing you can make a difference,” she added.

Joanne then progressed as a band 6 Macmillan development nurse within the NHSCT, where she did her Specialist Practice Qualification in palliative care at Ulster University (Jordanstown). This allowed her to develop her knowledge and skills in palliative care and specialist palliative care for those with complex situations.

“It’s not just about physical symptoms,” explained Joanne. “A lot of our job is holistic, it’s the patient’s social, psychological and spiritual needs and it’s looking at the person as a whole, not just their diagnosis.

“For me it’s about always demonstrating a proactive approach in identifying individuals' needs and ensuring that those needs are met appropriately to improve their quality of life.”

As a band 7 Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist in Causeway Hospital for the past five years, Joanne delivers palliative and end of life care to individuals experiencing complex needs associated with a progressive incurable life-limiting condition. She also attended Queen's University where she obtained her prescribing qualification.

She has worked with people with cancer and non-malignant illnesses such as Motor Neurone Disease, End Stage Heart Failure, End Stage Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, and Dementia.

Joanne feels privileged to provide support to patients, their relatives, and loved ones, guiding them throughout their journey and relieving some of their anxiety and distress during a difficult and uncertain time in their lives.

“Throughout my time as Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist I have met and cared for many people with cancer and other various life limiting conditions.

“Most people have their lives mapped out and to receive a palliative diagnosis is devastating for them and their loved ones.

“People have to deal with situations such as ‘how do I tell my school children’, it’s about talking them and their family through the best mechanisms to do that, and giving them the support they need. That’s the specialist side of it and why I enjoy it so much, you get to feel that you are making a difference.”

For many families the work Macmillan does is vital and this can only be done thanks to the generosity of the public.

Joanne explained: “Macmillan is an excellent charity and throughout my career I have seen how it supports so many people and families. Whether that’s with information or financially they can only do what they can do with donations and fundraising events, so it's essential people continue to fundraise to ensure this support can continue.”

Caring for someone at the end of life can be an extremely upsetting and emotional time, not just for loved ones but also for the nurses caring for the patient.

“I won’t lie, we have shed many tears,” explained the Coleraine mum of one. “We are human and you do build up a really close relationship with the patients and their families.

“It’s about having your own internal coping mechanisms, a lot of which comes from years of experience. A lot of it is to do with the team you work with because they can get you through it. If you are having a bad day they are there to give you a hug because everyone knows exactly how you are feeling and what you are going through.”

“It makes you re-evaluate and appreciate things more, especially with your own family.

I love spending as much time as I can with my husband Michael and son Max and getting out for walks on the beach. I also enjoy going to spin classes at Spin Club, you can switch off and enjoy working hard for that hour.”

Recent UCAS figures have shown a 19% drop in overall number of people applying to study nursing across the UK in the past year, a statistic that disappoints Joanne greatly.

“It makes me sad that there has been such a drop in the numbers applying. I have been a nurse for 23 years and I can honestly say not one day has ever been the same and I wouldn’t change that for anything.

“It is a fantastic career and I would encourage anyone who is remotely interested in nursing to go for it. It’s demanding and challenging both physically and mentally but it is so rewarding. I really couldn’t think of my life doing anything else.”

Joanne has recently been promoted as interim Service Lead for Palliative Care, leading palliative care services in the Macmillan Unit within the specialist palliative care team in Antrim and Causeway and with the support of her loving family there is no doubt she will be a success.

“I am passionate about helping and caring for people and I want to continue to make a difference in people's lives and ensure they feel supported and safe to face what is ahead of them.”

I think we can all agree that Joanne Currie’s dedication to nursing and the difference she makes in the lives of her patients is truly inspiring.

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