Louise's very interesting journey to becoming an ECLO

Post date: 
Tuesday, 7 June 2016
Louise O'Connor ECLO
From dancing in theatres and stacking supermarket shelves to driving forklift trucks, Louise O'Connor, now an ECLO at Salisbury Hospital, really has seen it all. Here, she talks about her exciting new job.

How long have you worked as an ECLO, Louise?

I started working as an ECLO only in January of this year. 
I used to be a nursing assistant in the eye clinic so I knew before I started what the clinic can be like. As an ECLO, I have time to sit and talk to patients about what their condition is and how it can affect them. I like the non-clinical aspect of my work most.

What were you doing before you started your role in January?

Believe it or not, I started my working life as a dancer in theatres. From there I went into spot welding, and making parts for cars. Eventually, this led me to working as a mechanic. I’ve driven a forklift trucks in warehouses, stacked shelves at Tesco in the evenings and after my second child, I made beds and cooked breakfasts at a local bed and breakfast. Then after my third child, I decided I couldn’t work in the cold any longer.
Nine years ago I started an admin job in the NHS. I was doing well but I always fancied something else. I didn’t know if I wanted to be a full-time nurse so I trained to be a nursing assistant. I moved to Salisbury Hospital as I’d heard the hospital’s reputation was excellent and I applied for a job in the Ophthalmology team. That was three years ago. I loved the job but when I saw the ECLO job coming up, I applied and got it.

Do you find having experience of working in multiple fields beneficial to your role now?

Definitely; as an ECLO, you see people from all walks of life, and everyone has their own experiences. My job isn’t just about eyes and I find having a broad range of experiences invaluable as it allows me to relate to more people on lots of different levels. 
Another thing I did while working as a nursing assistant, was an evening course in counselling. As this wasn’t part of my job, I did it in my own time while bringing up three children single-handedly. 

What do you love about your job?

There are two things I love really. Firstly it’s the patient satisfaction and secondly, it’s the people-interaction elements of my role which are the best.
Although clinically I can’t help patients, knowing I can refer them onto the right services gives me a huge feeling of self-gratification. Something that might feel trivial like giving out a magnifying glass, but it can help rebuild a patient’s confidence.
From all the jobs I’ve had, my favourite part is always the people-interaction. I’m a real people-person and I love to build the rapport with my patients. 

What about your role now?

My position is funded partly by RNIB, and partly by public health. It’s only funded for one year and so I’m hoping to get the support of the local Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and the Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust in January 2017 so it can to be funded permanently.

Is there a strong need in the area for a permanent ECLO?

There’s definitely sufficient need for the ECLO role. In my opinion, patients would get lost in the system without it. 

How can you secure permanent funding for the role?

I’ve been given targets to reach this year in order to qualify the need. So by January 2017, I need to have seen 500 new patients. I also need to set up steering groups and patient’s education forum groups and attend additional ECLO training workshops.
In March, I’d already seen just under 200 people in less than four months. It’s been hard but it’s been fun. 

How do you go about getting new patients?

Because of my background as a nursing assistant in the department, I’ve got to know which patients I need to help. I just pop a note on their records asking the doctors to send them my way when they’ve seen them. 
What’s great is I’ve already got the bonds and relationships with the nursing team, GPs and reception staff so the integration of the role is there already. If someone else got the job, they would have had to start from scratch. The patients are more willing to open up to me too.

Can you say some more about the patient education forums you run?

Well I am hoping to run these forum groups every couple of months. These are for patients to gain knowledge of their specific eye condition and know what support is available to them.
We run peripheral clinics too which I like to go to every other month to pick up any new referrals. Once I know the date I'm going then I ask the nursing team to advertise on my behalf so patients know when I'll be there. I don't want to miss anyone.
My first glaucoma forum is in a few weeks’ time. It’ll be a half-day dedicated to giving people an introduction to what glaucoma is and how they can get the support they and their family need. A spokesperson from the International Glaucoma Association will be speaking, along with a doctor. I’ll also do a talk about what an ECLO is, who I am and how people can arrange to see me. I’m expecting 10-15 people at the first one and I’ll run them every two months. 

What would you like to achieve in the next 12 months?

Other than hitting my targets, I’d like to make sure the forum groups I set up are successful. People need to feel they’re not alone and there’s help out there for them and their carers.

What’s your proudest achievement to date?

I’m most proud of being an ECLO and what I’ve achieved so far. People keep telling me “the jobs made for you” which is so nice to hear. 

What’s next for you?

My main aim is to make sure the ECLO post stays for good. I want to make sure it works even when I’m gone. The patients need it. I’ve had patients cry on me because the support is finally here. It’s not necessarily to do with what I’m doing personally, but that the service is now available. They’ve wanted it for years. 
ECLOs are so important because clinical staff haven’t always got the time or sometimes the inclination to talk through things with patients. ECLOs are vital at bridging the gap between the clinic and social aspects of dealing with sight loss. 

You’re such a busy woman! What do you like to do to unwind?

When I’ve finished putting the kids to bed, my idea of heaven is a bubble bath and a Maggie O’Farrel or Fern Britton novel. I love reading chick flick books as they’re great escapism. I love listening to rock music too, especially The Killers or Bon Jovi. I’ll listen to Metallica if I need a boost.

Further information

  • Louise O'Connor is an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer in Salisbury District Hospital's Eye Clinic. To find out more about Louise's very interesting journey to becoming and ECLO, or to find out more about the patient education forums she's set up, please contact Louise at louise.o'[email protected].


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