Combined Day Unit | Oncology Nurse


What is your role?
“I’m an oncology nurse which means, to put it simply, that I help give chemotherapy to patients with cancer. The patients we see in the Combined Day Unit will be coming to us for ongoing chemotherapy so we will see them quite frequently.

“Once they have been referred to us, they communicate directly with us, rather than go through their GP. There are three main roles that I have and I tend to work them all in one week, on different days.

“When I’m on triage I will be helping to organise patients in order of priority. We encourage patients to call us if they have any symptoms or feelings of illness and we can arrange for a time to come in or tell them to come in immediately if it is an emergency.

“On triage you are constantly moving, moving patients, juggling things. We oversee 25 chairs and 12 sick bays and we have to keep things flowing.

“On other days I could be in the sick bays, actually tending to those patients coming in. And if I’m not doing that I am in clinics, assisting the doctors as they see patients for scheduled appointments, helping to direct the path of their treatment.

“That variety, that excitement and that bonding with patients is what I love. It’s about the people, the way we get to see so many different personalities.”

Why did you want to do this job?
“I’ve worked at a few different Trusts, never stayed that long with any of them. But when I came to Derby I thought it was exceptional. Staff here are helpful, the whole Trust is supportive of what I want to do and how I want to develop.

“There’s a sense of family which was fostered at the old Derbyshire Royal Infirmary site but which has come across to the Royal Derby Hospital. It’s a much bigger hospital but the culture has survived and that’s a lovely, caring, friendly culture.

“Like I say, I moved around but since coming to Derby, I’ve stayed here 20 years. I feel like I have worth in the world. You’re stressed out and anxious in many jobs. But I’d rather be feeling those things about helping make people better than putting goods on shelves in a shop. It gives me a purpose to work hard.

“If I had to choose my life again I would do exactly the same thing.”

What is it you like about working at Derby Teaching Hospitals particularly?
“In Derby we have a big hospital, a new hospital. I think we’re in the middle of the country, a good location.

“I have seen doctors come here and say how good our policies and procedures are, that we have these structures in place and that we are so free and transparent with our information. That’s reassuring.

“But most importantly, so many of the staff really love their patients. I moved around in jobs but after coming to Derby, I stayed. I know a lot of people who’ve done the same. There are a lot of different cultures and faiths among the staff and these are tolerated and encouraged very openly.”

If you’re interested in joining the Derby Teaching Hospitals team, search our nursing vacancies now.

Why did you decide to take part in the programme?
“I agreed because I love Derby Teaching Hospitals. I think we are amazing and I wanted to promote that. At the time – and still today – there was a lot of negative press about the NHS, especially after what happened in Mid-Staffordshire. But it’s not true. We work so hard.

“I’m really proud to be a nurse and I hate it when we’re rubbished. People say that nurses don’t care as much; that they are just using computers; that healthcare is cold, impersonal and the like. It’s just not true, work here for a few days and you’ll see so much love. Maybe nurses can sometimes appear cold but you have to think how many patients they are seeing, how much work they have to do and how much of that is tough, emotional stuff. It’s hard sometimes and nurses have to be professional. But we care.

“People need to see the truth rather than just guessing and I saw this programme as an opportunity to show that.”

How was it working with the cameras and crew?
“Once I’d agreed, we had to work with my line managers and they were understandably strict about how the filming could take place; they had the patients’ interests first. But the film crew respected this: if it looked like it was getting busy, they would retreat immediately.

“We filmed in the waiting room in the Combined Day Unit and in some of the bays with the patients. I was very aware of the camera to begin with but I had to get on and do my work. You don’t really get a second shot when it comes to chemotherapy treatment and so the film crew just had to be ready and get it in one. They did and there’s nothing staged in there, it’s all natural, how it happened.

“I enjoyed the process. I’m naturally an extrovert, I did amateur dramatics and I recognise the power of presenting something on a screen.”

How do you think viewers will react to the programme – especially the parts you appear in?
“I think it could help recruit more staff into the NHS. People will see this and think it’s brilliant what we do, I really do, and they will want to be part of it, want to come and do good.

“For my department, for cancer care, I think people will see that as staff here, as nurses, we are fortunate enough to be able to make a relationship with a patient, that because we spend a long period of time with patients that we have a continuity that can really develop. You can become part-friends with patients and that’s really nice; that’s a privilege.

What do you hope people will take away from watching the programme?
“I hope people will find out that cancer is not as scary as they think. They do think that, they’re frightened of it and I can understand that. But the reality is not as scary. As cancer nurses, we come into the job and we spend so much time with people who seem fine, who seem normal but who have cancer somewhere inside. And you become a little bit phobic: every twinge you have, every ache or soreness, you imagine it’s cancer. But you talk about it with your colleagues and you learn the realities. I hope some of this comes across in the programme.”