An IBD team effort

23 Sep 2021

Ambassador Q&A with Alexandra Sechi

Alexandra Sechi started her nursing career at Liverpool Hospital in 2008. In 2011 Alexandra was employed as the first IBD Nurse at Liverpool Hospital, establishing the IBD Service along with A/Prof Susan Connor and Dr Watson Ng.

Alexandra is a current member of the IBD Nurses Australia (IBDNA) National Committee, the CCA Medical, Scientific and Quality of Care Committee, and is the past-Chair of the NSW & ACT IBD Nurses Group. Alex is an active attendee at IBD-related meetings and symposia and has been an invited speaker at meetings nationally and internationally.

Alexandra has led nurse-initiated research and has co-authored a number of publications. She is also involved in various senior nursing initiatives and committees at Liverpool Hospital and within South Western Sydney Local Health District (SWSLHD).

What do you think began your interest into Crohn’s and colitis and led you to become an IBD nurse?

Becoming an IBD nurse was very opportune for me! I had worked in Gastroenterology nursing, and had taken a short break from nursing and moved to the UK. Just prior to returning to Australia, I found out that the IBD nurse role was about to be established at Liverpool Hospital. Given my interest in Gastroenterology, I applied for the position and was successful. At this point, I didn't really know much about Crohn's or ulcerative colitis at all. Once I commenced working as an IBD nurse, and establishing the IBD Service at Liverpool Hospital along with A/Prof Susan Connor and Dr Watson Ng, I came to understand the profound impact that IBD has on the lives of people living with the disease and those close to them. From this point, my interest in and passion for IBD, especially the provision of high quality care, peaked.   

What drives your commitment to improving the lives for people with IBD?

Over the past decade I have had the opportunity to care for and work with so many amazing people. I have the privilege of our patients allowing me to walk their IBD journey with them, and see the very real lows and highs of living with IBD. This insight spurs me, and our IBD Team to continuously strive to make living with IBD easier, to ensure that IBD does not define our patient's lives, and for our patients to know and understand that they are central in their care team, even more so than the healthcare professionals. Seeing the difference an interdisciplinary team can make to improve the lives of people living with IBD continuously drives our commitment to improve services, offer novel treatments, and work with our patients closely to ensure we help them to attain and maintain an optimal quality of life.

What do you enjoy most about working with your IBD patients?

I most enjoy the building of relationships and rapport with my patients. With IBD being a chronic lifelong disease, I have the unique opportunity to care for people across the different phases of their lives. I have the pleasure of meeting patients in their teens, and being able to congratulate them on their marriages and birth of their first children in adulthood. I love meeting our transition patients who attend with their awesome parents, and then eventually seeing them at their appointments independently, confident and happy to be taking charge of their care. I also love working with our cohort of elderly patients, assisting them to navigate their IBD care in a different way, with different challenges due to their comorbidities and other biopsychosocial considerations. Being able to be a constant in the journey of those living with IBD is honestly what I enjoy the most!

The whole Liverpool Hospital Team have been wonderful supporters of CCA and the Live Fearless Challenge, tell us a little bit about what the team has been doing for the IBD community and why. 

The team at Liverpool Hospital truly believe in a wide team approach to the care and management of IBD. This approach includes the patient (at the centre), the clinical care team (nurses, doctors, dietitians, psychologists, pharmacists, surgeons etc), as well as patient support and advocacy organisations. CCA provides a unique level of support to our patients that is best provided by those external to the clinical care team. The IBD Team at Liverpool are passionate about raising awareness of IBD, as it is a disease that is often overlooked and can be largely silent for those not directly impacted. Participating in the Live Fearless Challenge as a team allows us to advocate for those living with IBD by raising awareness within the community. It also allows us to communicate with those living with the disease to say - we see you, we are here to support you, and we understand that living with IBD is not easy. Working with CCA to get this message across is extremely important to us. As a team, we have undertaken the Live Fearless Challenge a number of times, each time challenging ourselves physically and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones, with the hope of displaying our commitment to our patients and our local community. We know that in our Local Government Area there are thousands of people living with IBD, and we want them to know that support and excellent clinical care is available to them. As a team we are committed to continuing to work with CCA to provide education, increase awareness and provide support to our local and wider community.