National Cancer CNS Day 2023
Wednesday 26th April is National Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Day! Take a look below at what we've been doing to celebrate and to meet some of our team.
Meet the team:
Role;Clinical Nurse Specialist, Upper GI Cancer. More recently Deputy Cancer Lead Nurse
How long have you been a nurse and have you always worked at the James Paget? I have been nursing for 40 years, started training in 1983. In those days, student nurses were part of the paid workforce. I have worked at three other hospitals and also in primary care
How did you get into nursing? My mother was a nurse and I always knew I would be a nurse from the age of about 8. I started my training in 1983, finished in 1986. In those days, nurse training was undertaken in a School of Nursing on the hospital campus, not university. Entry criteria for nurse training was different for each school of nursing, for the School of Nursing I applied to, eligibility for nurse training was three A-level passes, grade B or above, supported by a written application and an interview with the Director of the School of Nursing. Training was a mixture of 20% lecture theatre and 80% clinical placement. At the end of every clinical placement, there were objectives to be achieved and a case study to be presented. There were also four formal practical exams to be undertaken during the three years, assessed in the clinical setting by the clinical tutor: wound dressing and aseptic technique; medicine round; total patient assessment and care; and ward management. At the end of every year there were written examinations and at the end of the third and final year, there were ‘hospital exams’ (different for each School of Nursing) as well as national exams with a dissertation. Failure to pass any assessment or any exam at any point during the three years meant you could not continue the training.
What led to you choosing to become a specialist in your field? I lost my mum and my brother to cancer within three months of each other. My mum died in hospital but my brother wanted to die at home; I am the only nurse in my family so I moved into his home to help his wife (who had only just had their baby) to care for him. He was only a year older than me. I was able to give him the best care I could and made sure that he wasn’t taken into hospital (his biggest fear). I made sure his death was dignified, pain free and peaceful. He was only 16 months older than me and had always been my hero; he told me during his final weeks that he felt safe when I was looking after him. In all my 40 years’ nursing, it is the nursing achievement I am most proud of; it made me want to do the same for other cancer patients (short of actually moving in with them!)
What’s the best thing about your role? Building great relationships and working with great teams
What would you say to someone considering becoming a nurse/ or a nurse specialist? Nursing is a privilege; to be allowed into the lives of strangers, to have their trust, to hold their hand whilst they tell you their biggest fears and to care for them when they are at their most vulnerable is truly a privilege not to be taken lightly. Truly satisfying nursing comes from doing the very best for the patients, not from passing an exam.
Name; Joanne Giles
Role; UGI Cancer Nurse Specialist
How long have you been a nurse and have you always worked at the James Paget? I started my training at James Paget Hospital in 1990 so have been a nurse for 32 years. Post qualifying I worked at Northgate Hospital in Great Yarmouth for 18 months before returning to JPH where I have been ever since. I have held various roles in different medical wards at JPH and progressed to Ward manager. I then moved onto complex case management and was involved with setting up the hospital discharge team. I started my current role in 2012
How did you get into nursing? My Great Grandma and Grandma were both nurses and I remember stories they used to tell especially about wartime nursing. I also had a Great Aunt who was a nurse and she gave me her FOB watch when I was a little girl and I promised her I would train and wear it one day ( I still have it. No longer working sadly). I always wanted to be a nurse but had a year between leaving school before I was old enough to start my training and I went to College to do a pre nursing course. I wrote to the little local cottage hospital in Essex where I lived and got a weekend and evening job as a domestic assistant just to give me a taste of the hospital environment. I wasn’t very successful at that job as spent too much time watching the nurses and talking to the patients rather than getting on with the cleaning. I started my training and was in one of the first project 2000 groups which had more school based lectures than previous training but did have a good amount of practical placements also. I did a Diploma in nursing alongside my training and obtained my degree post qualifying.
What led to you choosing to become a specialist in your field? I always loved working within medicine and found Gastroenterology especially interesting. I always strived to be a nurse specialist knowing from early on that this was the direction I wanted my career to go in rather than management. I felt that having worked as a complex case manager would give me the skills along with my medical nursing knowledge to really make a difference to the care of cancer patients.
What’s the best thing about your role? It’s the patients and being able to support them. The group of patients that I work with really go through difficult times and I am in awe of their bravery and courage. Anything I can do to make their journey even a little easier is hugely satisfying. I also work with some fantastic people.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a nurse/ or a nurse specialist? It’s been a fantastic job and career and I am now entering the last few years of mine. I have no regrets about choosing this career. Of course there have been tough times but also very happy and pleasurable times and I’ve met fantastic people along the way. I would say to work hard for your dream. Never ever forget that the patient is at the heart and soul of everything you do and always advocate for them. Good Luck.
Name; Laura Hartwell
Role; Colorectal Sister
How long have you been a nurse and have you always worked at the James Paget? I have worked in the James Paget as a healthcare assistant, and have been a qualified nurse for 14 years. I have worked in the trust for most of my career. I travelled abroad to Australia for a year and worked as a agency nurse in the private and public centre. Then returned back to the JPUH. When covid 19 pandemic hit – I was re deployed to ICU to help and assist, which I was very proud to be part of their team. I now have been with the colorectal service for over 3 years.
How did you get into nursing ? My first job was working at HMP Norwich rehabilitating offenders into the community. I then found I wanted something more challenging and I applied for a role as a healthcare assistance on the daycare unit, which after one year I applied for my training as a registered nurse.
What led to you choosing to become a specialist in your field? I worked in theatres for 6 years as a scrub practitioner, for most specialties including colorectal. I really enjoyed working with the team and have a keen interest in cancer services.
What’s the best thing about your role? I absolutely love supporting and caring for our patients and families on the colorectal pathway when they are at their must vulnerable. Being their advocate in a time of need. Showing compassion and empathizing with them in every aspect of their care.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a nurse/ or a nurse specialist? Nursing is a career. It’s a challenging and a rewarding role. You really can make a difference to someone’s life. Do it, will not look back.
Name; Rachel Atkins
Role; Colorectal Sister
How long have you been a nurse and have you always worked at the James Paget? I have been a nurse for 5 years working only at the James Paget
How did you get into nursing? I went to the University of Suffolk, after a brief career in domiciliary care.
What led to you choosing to become a specialist in your field? I always knew I wanted to become a cancer specialist nurse after witnessing my nannie have a short battle with lung cancer. I wanted to be a source of expertise and kindness for patients and their families.
What’s the best thing about your role? I love being able to support our patients and witnessing them surviving cancer and being able to provide attentive compassionate care for our patients at their most vulnerable.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a nurse/ or a nurse specialist? Cancer nursing is a very rewarding and challenging role and you will make an impact in the world.
Name; Linda Sawer
Role; CNS Colorectal Nursing Team
How did you get into nursing? I was a late starter to nursing. I decided to go into nursing following my backpacking trip around the world and realising I did not have any particular skill let alone a profession! I trained at St Bartholomew’s in London qualifying in 1999. I worked in London for several years and Australia for a year. Upon my return to the UK we moved to Suffolk and I joined the JPUH in 2007.
What led to you choosing to become a specialist in your field? I am passionate about bowel cancer awareness after losing my brother to this disease and was honoured to be offered the position of CNS for the Colorectal Team.
What’s the best thing about your role? The best thing about this role is supporting our patients throughout their journey with bowel cancer whether that is curative or palliative care. I work with a great team who take their role seriously and always go the extra mile for their patients.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a nurse/ or a nurse specialist? Nursing is a great career and you will make a difference to someone’s life.
Name; Stephanie Back
Role; CRC ERAS Sister
How did you get into nursing? I wanted to be a nurse when I left school but didn’t actually start my training until I was 29. I worked as an HCA here at Paget for 8 years before I started my training. I trained at UCS and I am the only nurse in my family.
What’s the best thing about your role? I have always been a surgical nurse and colorectal nursing is my background and something I have always been interested in. I like to see the patients on the ward and support them in recovering to the best of my abilty.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a nurse/ or a nurse specialist? I would encourage anyone with a genuine interest in people and an emphatic, caring personality to consider a career in nursing as its as rewarding as it is challenging!
Name; Jincy Bilgy
Role; Uro-Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist
How long have you been a nurse and have you always worked at the James Paget? I have completed my nursing studies in India and I have been nursing for 24 years, I was one of the first nurses to come to Gorleston from South India 18 years ago to work at the James Paget.
How did you get into nursing? Fortunately, I am one of the first one to choose nursing in my family and was inspired to become a nurse by my older brother, Sojan who sadly passed away 2 years ago with coronavirus in India. I believe his legacy lives on through my work caring for cancer patients and their beloved ones.
What led to you choosing to become a specialist in your field? The Uro-Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) team are group of nurses with specialist skills knowledge and experience in urological cancer care. We provide specialist support and information to patients and their family throughout their cancer pathway. I have a wonderful team who want to make the difference to our patient and we work as a team. No two days are the same but that’s what keeps the job exciting and rewarding.
What’s the best thing about your role? I feel that I’m making a difference by supporting patients in a crucial and difficult time of their life, whether that is at the time of cancer diagnosis, or making treatment decisions which can have life changing side effects.
What would you say to someone considering becoming a nurse/ or a nurse specialist? Nursing is a profession that demands life-long learning. For any registered nurse that identifies a clinical speciality that they are passionate about and I feel that they could perform their role within that speciality better with an increased scope definitely Clinical Nurse Specialist is the way to go! When your passion and job are the same challenges do not become an obstacle.