Nurse Orla scoops unsung hero title

Orla Duncan, right, with Health Secretary Shona Robison

Orla Duncan, right, with Health Secretary Shona Robison

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ORLA Duncan has worked in the health service for more than 20 years – and has now claimed a major Unsung Hero award.

The 49-year-old was named as the winner of the title at this year’s Scottish Health Awards.

Orla is a psychosocial nurse practitioner in the Paediatric Psychology Liaison Service at NHS Lothian.

She is based at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children and works with children as part of the Cleft Lip and Palate and Plastic Surgery teams.

She provides support for children, as well as their families, with conditions that affect appearance.

She trained as a general and paediatric nurse and became interested in psychosocial nursing. She decided to pursue a career in this field and began following training courses in plastic surgery, burns and wound management.

Orla went on to be a senior staff nurse in the plastic surgery ward and then a plastic surgery and cleft lip and palate nurse specialist at the Sick Kids.

She works with children born with or who develop conditions that affect the way they look. Sadly, they can suffer from cruel or thoughtless comments about their appearance but Orla works with them to help turn their lives around.

Orla who lives in Barnton, “I am very pleased and quite overwhelmed to have won this award, but would say that it’s really for the whole team and not just me.”

Talking about her role, she said: “I try to help families build resilience to cope with questions and comments from strangers, and consider the impact not just on parents but on siblings and grandparents and friends.

“I understand their concerns and let them know they can pick up the phone to me any time they need someone to speak to. It’s really important in helping the baby or child to have a support system and know how to manage so that they can grow up confident individuals.”

Every year, the Scottish Health Awards recognise and reward the dedicated NHS staff, support workers, volunteers and specialist teams who go the extra mile to provide outstanding patient care.

Orla won the Unsung Hero Award for her “unwavering dedication to improving the lives of her patients and their families”.

She was nominated by a mum who has known Orla for 19 years – since before her son was born. He was the first baby to be diagnosed with a cleft lip prior to his birth. And even though Orla was on maternity leave herself at the time, she still worked on his case. She has become the young man’s rock throughout his life, guiding him during difficult times in his treatment.

Professor Alison McCallum, director of public health and health policy for NHS Lothian, said: “This is a significant achievement and it is rewarding to see Orla’s work and commitment being recognised.”