What attracted you into the nursing profession?
Nursing wasn’t my first job, I had went down the career path of Business Studies and worked in an Insurance office. I came to realise that this was not the path I wanted to continue on. I can’t recall the situation but I remember my Grandmother telling me that I would make a great nurse. I have no idea why she said that. This planted a seed and I thought she might be right.
Briefly outline any career milestones and success factors.
I recall going for a group interview. I looked around at the people in the room and started to question if I was doing the right thing. I somehow managed out of all those people to get offered a place. My training provided me with choices and opportunities and I decided to go down the route of Adult Nursing. I remember my first job in the medical ward. It was during these 2 years that I decided I wanted to care for patients with cancer. The medical ward covered various specialties and I always felt a great privilege that patients and families let you into their world at such a difficult time.
It was at this stage that I applied for a move to Oncology and was successful. I started to work in the Chemotherapy Day Hospital. At first I thought it wasn’t for me as I always enjoyed working on the wards and palliative nursing. Then I realised that it was just a different type of nursing and this would open up new doors and provide many opportunities. I decided at this stage to do my Postgraduate Specialist Practice in Caring with the Person with Cancer. On completion of this I felt I was more prepared academically and faced the challenge of building up my skills in caring for this group of patients.
I have worked now in Oncology for 15years. Having remained in this speciality for so many years has given me the gift of living the evolution of cancer care. I was successful at progressing from a junior nurse in Oncology to eventually becoming the Deputy Ward Sister within the unit. This provided new skills and I found this a very challenging role. I felt I wanted to progress down the route of specialist nursing.
Briefly outline your current job title/role and your practice area.
Over the past 18 months I have had the opportunity to work as a Macmillan Gynaecological Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist. Macmillan has been working to remodel the traditional 'one size fits all' approach to aftercare in Northern Ireland and I wanted to be part of this ‘Transforming Cancer Care Follow up’ project. I currently work as part of a team. The team includes the Macmillan Gynecological Clinical Nurse Specialist working with the Gynecological Surgeons, myself working with the Oncologist and Macmillan Support Worker who supports both nurse specialists. My role is very rewarding and this model of working is what attracted me to the post. The post is a novel post with a defined steering group for support.
What specific qualifications and experience are required for your current role?
Academically my role required me to be in possession of a qualification in Gynaecology, Oncology or Palliative Care. It also required me to be in possession or willing to undertake a postgraduate qualification in Advanced Nursing such as Health Assessment or Nurse Prescribing. This would be the typical requirements for such a specialist role. I was aware of this and worked towards achieving these qualifications prior to applying for the post. With regards to experience, I needed to have 3 years' post-registration nursing experience caring for patients with Gynecological cancer. Personally I feel that Patient care is a valuable task. As a professional group the Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist’s deal with patients and their relatives under very stressful conditions. They routinely confront pain, suffering and death and often have to have very sensitive conversations. I found that having completed the Advanced Communication Skills with NICaN a great benefit.
Why should someone think of a career in Nursing in your practice area/setting in particular?
As a Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist you gain specialist knowledge. I get the opportunity to work with a specialist team. I am in an influential role that can impact health care across the board. Since commencing my post I have developed nurse led protocols, set up a nurse led telephone review clinic and a Holistic Needs Assessment clinic. This type of role provides exciting opportunities with great support. Reaching this level of nursing takes dedication, but if you want to help improve health care and be part of decision making processes then I feel a career as a Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist is the right path to take.
What are the attributes required of nurses looking after patients/clients in your practice area/setting in particular?
Having a sound knowledge of Gynaecological Cancer is a key attribute, having the ability to assess patients holistically. Being able to empathise and communicate effectively with patients and their families. Beyond providing direct care, I interact with professionals at every level of the health care system this requires me to have advanced communication skills to utilise at every level.
What are the enjoyable aspects of working in your practice area/setting?
Patients often tell me that it takes a special kind of person to be a Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist. As a Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist I play an intimate role in the lives of people living with cancer. These patients and their families often open up a part of their lives, which would normally remain private. I have had to share moments of good results, and disappointments, it is from these experiences that I am able to draw the perfect pleasure of my role.
What are the challenging aspects of working in your practice area/setting?
On a daily basis I meet incredible courageous patients that are battling cancer. My day is faced with a variation of tasks and situations. I am privileged that I have the support of a good team and colleagues that support me. As a team we all get involved when I am faced with a challenging complex case and they assist me with solutions in managing and planning the patients care.
What key skills have you gained in your current role?
When I commenced my role as a Macmillan Clinical Nurse Specialist It was very different to my previous role as a Deputy Ward Sister. I had to take off my manager hat and learn to be more calm and softer in my approach. I had my list of skills of the nurse specialist however, I feel that best approach is to have the ability to put yourself in the patient and families shoes and have the willingness to see the bigger picture.
What are the career opportunities for nurses/midwives in your practice area/setting in particular?
Being a Macmillan Gynaecological Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist provides opportunities to make important contributions to health care, including serving as a clinical expert, influencing and evaluating care. Being a Macmillan Professional offers recognition. Macmillan support plays a vital role in improving your skills and providing opportunities to further develop yourself as an advanced practitioner to become an expert in nursing patients with cancer.
What should someone do if they are interested in pursuing a career in your practice area/setting in particular?
Have a plan. If you know what area you want to work in, know what qualifications and experience you need to apply for that role. Work towards achieving these required skills and knowledge. Be in the best position you can to be able to pursue the role you want. It is very rewarding when you achieve that role.
I feel very fortunate to be in a role that provides great support and where I feel valued. I am in a privileged role that allows me to accompany patients with cancer through a difficult journey. This group of patients invites me into their lives. My role can be hard but it is also full of meaning. It is this valuable relationship that allows me to provide, and patients to receive the best possible care tailored for them.