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“Nurses have a special relationship with patients and can drive research”

10 May 2024

Ahead of International Nurses Day on Sunday 12 May, we spoke to Pam Yanez, former directorate manager for renal services in Newcastle, about her career and our upcoming campaign to encourage more renal nurses to become involved in research. Funded opportunities will be available with Kidney Research UK from summer 2024, for nurses to learn more about research, apply for research grant awards and take academic qualifications.

Pam, from Newcastle, currently holds several prominent voluntary roles supporting Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust and kidney patients in the local area. Her career first began at 16 years old when she became a nurse, and with over 50 years’ experience in roles supporting dialysis and transplant patients, she has been involved in key developments in patient care.

Pam's vast understanding of the profession means she is fully aware of the difference that nurses can make in finding new breakthroughs through research. She says: "I am excited by the opportunities that Kidney Research UK's new grant awards will offer nurses in using their skills to drive research and directly impact the lives of patients."

Lady wearing a white top
Pam Yanez

Being a renal nurse

Dialysis treatment can be physically exhausting, but it also greatly impacts patients’ lives both emotionally and practically.

Pam says: “For renal nurses, it’s about making the unit as pleasant as possible alongside their dialysis, so people feel at home, feel loved, and aren’t scared about coming in for their treatment. The love bit is really important, because you have a special relationship with your patients and that’s what I always cherished.

“We were a family on the unit, and I still think about my patients today. My goal was to keep patients well enough to have a transplant, and when I see people like my friend, Kayleigh, who is 35, I do feel proud. I was there when she had a transplant as a six-month-old baby.”

Nurses can drive progress

Pam feels nurses are uniquely placed to contribute to research. She says: “There’s a lot of focus on research by doctors and scientists, but I think nurses bring a different perspective to it. We are the carers who see the social and emotional aspects of receiving treatment. There’s lots of research that nurses can do to add different value to patients’ lives.”

Newcastle Hospital has been the site of a number of projects which paved the way for major innovations in dialysis and transplantation, and Pam had an important role in these. She says: “During my nursing days, I was part of a successful practical research project to save costs and prevent waste on my unit by improving the way in which we used our dialysis equipment.

“I’ve seen many improvements in treating patients over the years. For example, reducing the effect of anaemia in causing fatigue, and changing dialysis solution to reduce vomiting. Treatment is better nowadays but there is still lots to do.

“Nursing is in a vastly different position now to when I started - there are even professors of nursing. As renal nurses, we manage a lot of technical treatments, and I always liked being able to teach the doctors about dialysis. There are opportunities for nurses to make a big difference beyond their day-to-day roles, especially through leading research projects.”

Making transplants happen

After seven years on the dialysis unit, Pam took up a new role as a transplant coordinator. She says: “There was a major problem with a shortage of organs for transplant. Donors and recipients were in different hospitals, and there was little communication between units. I built relationships and put practical steps in place so that when a donor was identified I could facilitate a transplant.”

Pam received an OBE from the Queen to acknowledge her work in this field in 2000, and says: “It was important to me because I wanted our patients to have the best chance at having a transplant. We also made sure to get bereavement support for donors’ families.”

From there, Pam became directorate manager for renal services in Newcastle. She says: “That allowed me to support patients in a different way. My mission was to make sure I could get the resources for them. My experience in nursing and transplantation meant I could take senior directors to the dialysis centre and speak with authority about what was needed.”

Continuing to support patients

After retiring in 2014, Pam has continued to support patients in a voluntary capacity, including as lead public governor at Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust, a member of the Northern Counties Kidney Research Fund committee, a trustee of the Transplant Patients Trust, and chair of a charity called The Kidney Patients Holiday Fund.

Pam says: “I’m still very involved with kidney patients and the hospital trust. Some people say I might never leave! I’ve represented patients and the public at Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust for the past six years, to make sure their voices are heard.

“My charitable work includes enabling dialysis patients to go on holiday while receiving treatment, and providing financial grants to transplant patients who are facing difficult times. I’d love for transportation to be improved for patients, particularly those receiving dialysis who are often groggy after their treatment and struggle with driving home.

"Accommodation on site at hospital would be a massive help to transplant patients and their families too. There’s still lots of work, research, and testing that can be done to make patients’ lives easier.

“I’m privileged to have had the career that I’ve had. I couldn’t have wanted for more. It’s over to other people now and I hope they realise what a special group the patients are. I would encourage any nurse to take the plunge and consider making a difference through research by applying to Kidney Research UK’s next grants round.”

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