Tuesday 29th September 2015
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Autumn 2015
Sarah Hartley on her progression into a role with a greater clinical focus and which supports clinical nurse specialists
I was a medical secretary for 23 years and had wished the role could be expanded in some way, particularly to involve face-to-face patient contact.
The role of Macmillan cancer care coordinator was advertised as an administrative role combined with a clinical element – supporting clinical nurse specialists (CNSs). The fact that it was a new role as part of a Macmillan survivorship project, with no pre-existing template, seemed the perfect opportunity for me.
Learning and developing
I started in July 2013 and initially visited various departments and services, following a patient’s pathway. This gave me a much better understanding of the experiences of head and neck cancer patients.
Crucial to the role, I also spent time with our CNSs, our speech and language therapist and our dietitian in our nurse-led pre and post-treatment holistic needs assessment (HNA) clinics.
These HNA clinics support patients following diagnosis, and discuss treatment plans and rehabilitation. They were a real eye-opener for me, expanding my understanding of head and neck cancer treatments and its effects immensely.
In the first months, my administrative skills were put to good use, enabling me to help streamline documentation and processes, as well as access systems previously not accessible to the team. I was also encouraged to engage in as much learning to support my role as possible. I completed a cancer support course, which was spread over nine months covering topics such as an introduction to counselling, communication skills and dealing with loss and bereavement. I was also lucky enough to participate in motivational interview training with the team and continue this now with the support and feedback from our team psychologist.
An evolving role
The initial aim of my role was to support the head and neck CNS, along with allied health professionals and the wider multidisciplinary team. But the role soon progressed to offering low-level support and helping people complete holistic needs assessments 12 months after completing treatment on the telephone.
As part of the survivorship project, through a process of risk stratification, the CNSs agreed that I would carry out all 6- and 12-month post-treatment holistic needs assessments. This has enabled the CNS to concentrate on patients with more complex needs.
Since I’ve started, my role has continually been evolving. My clinical workload is now larger than my administrative work. I still use my secretarial skills daily, but work both autonomously and with the team in coordinating elements of the patients’ pathways.
I chase up test results, ensure patients are discussed in multidisciplinary team meetings and facilitate outpatient appointments when required.
In addition I attend two nurse-led clinics weekly, where I see the patient first, and take their weight along with their social and drug history. I have my own telephone clinic for the 6- and 12-month post-treatment holistic needs assessments, offering low-level support and care coordination.
Satisfaction and achievement
In my younger years working in the NHS, my perception of progression and success were gauged by my pay grade. Not now. The satisfaction and sense of achievement I get when I have helped a head and neck patient in their recovery is immeasurable. The clinical aspect is what keeps me in the job and makes me cross my fingers and toes – I am optimistic that the post will continue beyond the project.
Macmillan Head and Neck Cancer Care Coordinator
Bradford Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust
01274 365 848