What a year, It’s time for reflection by Helen Coles (@huffity)

The Christmas decorations are packed away into their boxes, and trees have been stripped of their glitter and bling. The festivities have come to an end and the welcoming of 2016 was celebrated by many surrounded by families, friends and colleagues.

helen 1 The entering of a New Year should bring happiness, reflection and, for many, positive resolutions and goals requiring willpower and determination. The change from one year to the next can bring new challenges and offers the step forward into new opportunities either professionally or personally. However sadly for many perhaps the New Year brings in a feeling of uncertainty or fear, where a clear pathway or future plan can often not be seen and where the days, weeks and months ahead are often clouded by grief, loss, illness or a sense of losing control over a situation or outcome.

The last 12 months of 2015 have brought a variety of news headlines providing us with daily discussion and conversation and also showing the power of social media; interestingly one of the most tweeted discussions that became a viral phenomenon involved the debate over this dress, a strange optical illusion; a blue and black dress which to many appeared as gold and white, sparking discussion and debate through twitter and social media. What colour did you see?

helen 2 This was closely followed on twitter with millions of tweets commenting on the birth of a new princess into the public eye and the death of Cilla Black who was described as a national treasure, which for many saw the beginning of a new life and sadly the passing of another.

March 2015 saw the death of fantasy author and creator of the Discworld series Sir Terry Pratchett at the age of 66 after being diagnosed with Alzheimers in 2007, not only was he an acclaimed fantasy author he campaigned publicly for the right to die. In June irrespective of political view came the sad news of former liberal democrat leader Charles Kennedy who died suddenly following a major haemorrhage after his long battle with alcoholism. And in Scotland figures indicated that alcohol related admissions to hospital continue to rise in 2015.

helen 3For many, 2015 brought the hype and anticipation of the new Star Wars film – ‘The Force Awakens’ – and was not without disappointment, however personally I’m more of a Bond girl and Spectre featuring Daniel Craig was always going to be my 2015 film of the year.

Although 2015 brought lots of good news, the main headlines were dominated by political debates over the crisis of the vast number of refugees fleeing war torn areas where aid is so vitally needed and more recently the terrorist attacks in Paris, highlighting not only the vulnerability to threat but the sadness which comes with such tragic death and innocent loss. 2015 also brought a major scientific breakthrough, watched by the world. British astronaut Major Tim Peake ventured into space to the International space station, the first brit to do so. Not only that but he tweeted Sir Elton John with Rocket man, gained a significant info page on Wikipedia and dialled a wrong number back to earth from space on Christmas day.

There were many 2015 health headlines, as an ex respiratory nurse specialist e-cigarettes have provoked much discussion and only time will tell the long term effects. In Scotland, a ban on smoking in cars with children was unanimously voted as an offence and provoked a change in legislation under the children in motor vehicles bill. As for the NHS, it continues to make daily headlines and is a target for the media both nationally and locally and despite all the positives it is the negatives that make the news. In Scotland we saw the opening of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital Glasgow which was even the subject of a BBC documentary, interesting watching as we head towards the building and completion of a new hospital for Dumfries. Lessons to be learnt.

More recently however the news has been dominated by the horrendous wet weather with parts of our own region severely devastated by Storm Desmond and the forces of nature. Whilst watching the national and local news broadcasting from the Whitesands I was struck by the resilience, generosity, good will and sense of teamwork seen by professionals, volunteer services and members of the public -helping people and families who they had never met before and sharing experiences and stories. Suddenly on social media facebook pages were set up to help those who needed basic shelter, food and warmth – all fundamental to surviving in a time of vulnerability. The offers of assistance, help and support showed the empathy that people had with the difficult situation and future ahead of them, and willingness at that point to be part of a person’s life even if only for a short time.

For me 2015 brought my own news headlines with a feature, alongside others in the local DG life magazine, celebrating the amazing achievements and work of staff and volunteers at the NHS Dumfries and Galloway Excellence in care awards held at Easterbrook Hall. Watching all the nominees and winners dressed up for the evening in black ties and a variety of sparkly dresses, and with everyone so proud to be representing their area of work, their department and their expertise just showed the work that goes on by all staff within NHS Dumfries and Galloway. Daily, wherever we work, we are all part of the lives and healthcare of patients where we hope to make a difference through the work we do.

The Patient award for me was a great honour and knowing that someone had taken the time to find out about the awards process, fill out the nomination form and think that I had made such a difference to their journey of care made me very proud and for once speechless. However for me the award also symbolised the end of an era. In October 2015, following 10 years of working as a nurse specialist with the respiratory team, I headed off to new pastures as an advanced nurse practitioner within the emergency department.

helen 4So what will 2016 bring? It is the Chinese year of the monkey; the monkey is described to be an intelligent, witty, and inventive animal. The monkey is a problem solver working with their group while simultaneously demonstrating independence associated with an aim to achieve and who always likes a challenge.

In 2016 there will be many news headlines, with the inevitable health related challenges including pressures on services, bed resources, lack of finances and the constant demand on staffing. Despite all this we too use our intelligence, problem solving skills and sense of team work to ensure that the care remains the best we can deliver to the patients and their families that we see and treat across NHS Dumfries and Galloway

Here’s hoping to a healthy and prosperous 2016

Helen Coles is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner within the Emergency Department at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary