My job

Cancer nursing is like riding a roller coaster

The job may have its ups and downs – but the only way to get over one’s professional fears is to devour as much information as possible, says Mesothelioma UK clinical nurse specialist Simon Bolton.

The job may have its ups and downs – but the only way to get over one’s professional fears is to devour as much information as possible, says Mesothelioma UK clinical nurse specialist Simon Bolton

Mesothelioma UK clinical nurse specialist Simon Bolton

What does your job involve?

I am a Mesothelioma UK clinical nurse specialist at Harrogate and District Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. My post is funded by Mesothelioma UK, a national resource centre dedicated to providing free specialist mesothelioma information, support, care and improved access to treatment.

I cover north and west Yorkshire, caring for local mesothelioma patients and supporting the lung cancer teams from across the area. With so many new developments in treatment, ensuring cases are accurately diagnosed and considered at multidisciplinary team level is a key part of the role. Attracting clinical trials to the region is another major expectation.

Why did you become a nurse?

I went along to the nursing career talk at school simply to skip double geography. But there was something about doing a job that made a real difference to people’s lives that grabbed my attention.

Why did you choose to specialise?

I found my way into oncology after a two-year stint as a junior staff nurse in cardiology and general medicine. Nursing in lung cancer interested me most, but I was a bit intimidated at the thought of caring for those with mesothelioma. It’s a complex disease with so many additional issues facing those affected by it.

In addition to coming to terms with an incurable diagnosis and limited proven treatment opportunities, patients have to navigate the benefit and legal system to pursue compensation, as well as dealing with the fact that their eventual death will be deemed unnatural and require a coroner’s inquest. 

I decided the only way to get over my fear was to learn. I devoured as much information as I could and forged excellent networks with key experts from around the UK and beyond.

Where did you train?

In Leeds, having moved from the north east where I’d worked in nursing assistant roles since the age of 16. This provided me with a fantastic insight into ward-based nursing. I was fortunate to work alongside some wonderful role models whom I’ve never forgotten.

What are the challenges for modern-day cancer nursing practice?

Cancer nursing can be likened to a roller coaster ride with many highs and lows. The landscape is changing at a faster pace than ever.

Cancer nurses must keep pace with the advances and be prepared for patients coming with some understanding of their illness and how they might like to be treated.

What qualities do you think a cancer nurse should possess?

All those words that begin with the letter c are vital in nursing – and even more so in cancer nursing: caring, compassionate, competent, communication, courage and commitment.

Confidence comes from the hard work it takes to develop an expert knowledge base. It’s an essential attribute in gaining the trust of those we care for.

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

I've started to spend more time running. Earlier this year, I had an idea to enter a couple of races to raise funds for Mesothelioma UK. Before I knew it, I was committed to two full and four half marathons in a six-month period.

What nursing achievement are you most proud of?

I set up and facilitate a regional information and support group for people affected by mesothelioma. The beauty of the group is bringing people together to share experiences and foster hope. The group has just launched a web site, Facebook page and Twitter account with the intent of sharing information, support and experiences with those unable to attend in person.

What advice would you give a newly qualified nurse in your field?

Like any job, I believe it's vital to learn your trade. There are more exciting career opportunities for nurses than ever before. There is a temptation to rush into a specialty and not taste the variation this profession affords us.

No matter how much of an expert we become in our chosen field, we never know when we will be called upon to draw from basic knowledge and experiences we encountered earlier in our nursing career.



This article is for subscribers only