Meet Melanie, Lead Lung Cancer Nurse Specialist at UHS.
What is your role and what does your role entail?
I am the Lead Lung Cancer Nurse Specialist at UHS. My role involves overseeing the delivery of the lung cancer service while developing and delivering specialist-nursing services for patients with lung cancer. The CNS role involves the:
Support and management of patients and their families, from point of referral for diagnostic tests, diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance.
Active patient monitoring and surveillance as a cornerstone of patient safety.
Co-ordination and oversight of patients and their families in the community, providing liaison, navigation, advice, and guidance.
Providing continuity of care for patients and families, helping them to navigate pathways and systems.
Working with a range of community services, including Primary Care, charitable and voluntary sectors.
Enabling the delivery of supported self-management and personalised care.
Working in partnership with patients and their families to increase awareness and understanding of their treatment plans, with evidence that this improves treatment compliance and admission avoidance.
Supporting patients experiencing distress, anxiety and psychological trauma.
How long have you been with UHS and what was your career background?
I have been working at UHS since August 2019 when I started in this post. I qualified as an RGN in 1997 in Bournemouth where I worked in Respiratory medicine, ICU and cardiology.
I was interested in palliative care and lung cancer and worked for a short time at Countess Mountbatten Hospice (as it was known then) before becoming a lung cancer CNS in 2004. I was in post there for 10 years until I relocated away from Bournemouth.
I had a break for 6 months and then worked as a Marie Curie nurse in Hampshire. While working for Marie Curie I developed and ran communication skills workshops, and induction training, and delivered competency-based training and team assessments.
What developments within your department are you looking forward to?
We have a new investment within the CNS team this year, and I am looking forward to developing the service facilitating personalised care and support self-management of people with lung cancer. The service is in line with the trust’s strategic plan and alongside Wessex Cancer Alliance.
Has any new cutting-edge research or techniques been used in the department since you joined?
Electromagnetic navigational bronchoscopy (ENB) pilot in the detection of lung cancer. This is a medical procedure that uses electromagnetic GPS-like technology to examine any abnormal areas in the lungs and take biopsies (if indicated).
What training and development opportunities have you had during your time at UHS?
I have undergone leadership and project management training plus also been fortunate to gain Wessex Cancer Alliance funding to undertake the PGCert. Professional Practice in Health Sciences at Level 7.
What personal qualities do you feel assist you in being a part of the Cancer Care team?
In my opinion, the personal qualities you will need include compassion, emotional intelligence, empathy, intuition, and good listening skills.
What is the overall team environment like?
The environment is friendly, respectful, and built on trust. The team is hard-working, and we are focused on excellence and improving the service for our patients and their significant others. We have a shared goal!
What does your team do to help keep morale up and support each other?
We regularly check in with each other at the beginning and end of shifts (and during if the need arises), and regular team meetings. We celebrate our birthdays and achievements within the team with regular socials outside of work which we couldn’t do when there were COVID-19 restrictions. It has been good to be able to do that again.
What do you feel is world-class at UHS?
What I feel is World-class at UHS is the people.
The teams that I have met over the past 3 years have demonstrated immense commitment, team spirit and drive to provide excellence in care under what have been very challenging conditions.
How does your role help with diagnosing and helping with Cancer treatment?
The lung cancer CNS role is pivotal in the diagnosis and ongoing management of patients with lung cancer. We are often the first point of contact for patients undergoing diagnostics.
Our role serves to ensure that everyone undergoing investigation has a CNS as a point of contact for concerns or queries they may have. We are often told by patients and their significant others that they feel we listen to their concerns and feel confident that we will do our best to support their needs.
What specialism did you study to become a Cancer CNS?
I studied primarily respiratory medicine, cancer care, palliative care, and advanced communication skills training. I built up my knowledge and skills within these settings over the years since qualifying.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about starting a career as a Cancer CNS?
Try and get some shadowing experience with a CNS team in a specialist area you are interested in. This will ensure you better appreciate the role and competencies required of the CNS, it will also enable you to get to know the team and get a feel for whether a CNS role is the best fit for you.
There are very different challenges to ward work so having a good understanding will help to prepare you for developing your knowledge and skillset and ultimately applying for a post.
Is there a moment of working in the department that made you feel proud of your job?
To be able to support patients and their significant others is a great privilege. We are often seeing them at their most vulnerable and at possibly one of the most challenging times of their lives. I am proud on a daily basis of the team I work with and the service that we provide. As a team, we really appreciate when people take time out to tell us how the support, we have given has made a difference in their experience.
Recent patient feedback:
‘We think it is an exceptional service that you provide and from the point of the first CT, it all happened very quickly which we were very thankful for. Thank you very much for the impressive support you have provided’.
‘A huge thank you for going above and beyond helping me through a very hard time. I hugely appreciate everything you have done’.
‘You gave dad a chance and choices, I am so grateful for that, and at the end, you made him comfortable and ensured he was not alone, a friendly face who genuinely cared and knew what he was going through’.
To find out about how you can join the team, click here to find out about our open opportunities.