A project to improve the quality of life for patients stressed by ‘leaky’ swollen legs has won a Wairarapa community health nurse a leadership award.

Angelene Williams, who works for Wairarapa District Health Board was presented her Open for Leadership award by the Health Quality & Safety Commission chief executive Dr Janice Wilson for her work developing an educational pamphlet for her patients.

‘Leaky legs’ is the nickname given to lower-limb lymphovenous disease and lymphorrhoea, when extensive oedema (swelling) is caused by fluid leaking into the tissue for a variety of reasons including problems with blood circulation and lymphatic drainage.

“I noticed there was an amount of stress among these patients, which affecting their quality of life. I just thought, ‘How can we improve this?’” said Williams.

In response, she designed an educational pamphlet for patients and introduced a new long-term review model of care so the patients are now assessed every few months.

Williams said the pamphlet helps patients in their self-care between visits from their nurse, and improves their health literacy as it helps them and their families to better understand the condition. Information in the pamphlet includes advice for patients on how to elevate their legs and what foods to eat.

‘I recently visited one of these patients and she recognised that I was the person who created the form,” said Williams. “We were then able to talk about how much extra protein she needed to improve, including via supplements, in a very engaged way. She seemed to be very interested and understood a lot more as a result of the pamphlet.”

“Patients need this kind of education and support. If they aren’t on board and aware of how to improve their health, they are unlikely to improve, so the pamphlet helps them know what to do and how to do it.”

The Open for Leadership awards are coordinated by the Commission to recognise and celebrate health professionals who demonstrate excellent practice, quality improvement and leadership skills. Dr Wilson gave Williams a trophy and she will be sponsored to attend a Commission event of her choice.


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