'Maintain your professional integrity at all times'
Senior clinical nurse specialist at the Royal Marsden Hospital Caroline Gee on why trusting your gut will benefit you in the long run.
Caroline Gee is a senior clinical nurse specialist in gastrointestinal consequences of cancer treatment at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London
What does your job involve?
I work in a specialist multidisciplinary team that investigates and manages patients who experience gastrointestinal symptoms as a result of their cancer treatment. The clinical aspect of the role involves history-taking, physical examinations, requesting and interpreting investigations, and managing the new diagnoses made. A holistic needs assessment is offered to all patients attending the clinic.
I have also recently applied to undertake the independent and supplementary prescribing course in 2018.
Why did you become a nurse?
A wise woman encouraged me by saying that I would make an excellent nurse; that it was a fulfilling and rewarding career. I didn’t believe her at the time, but she was right.
How did you come to work in the field of oncology?
As a nursing student, I went to work on an oncology ward. I was immediately accepted as part of the multidisciplinary team, and became involved in all aspects of complex discussions and care. The team was inspiring and it seemed like anything was possible to achieve together. That was how my cancer nursing journey began.
Where did you train?
At the Royal Free Hospital in London. I learned to value everyone’s role in the team. By observing multidisciplinary teams working together in action, I knew what kind of nurse I hoped to become.
Where have you worked previously?
My last role was as an upper gastrointestinal cancer nurse specialist working across Mount Vernon Cancer Centre and Watford General Hospital.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
Working in an area that is particularly research focused. I also enjoy meeting a variety of patients and seeing the look of relief on their faces when you acknowledge that their symptoms may have an organic cause that can be treated – or that you hope to improve.
What are the challenges for cancer nursing practice in the 21st century?
While cancer survival rates continue to increase, the gap between available services and an ageing population continues to widen. There are limitations in terms of what specialist cancer nurses can do following the treatment pathway of the patient. As nurses endeavour to provide high standards of care for their patients, they will need to harness collaborative working to continue their success.
What qualities do you think a cancer nurse should possess?
A sense of humour, resilience and a belief to not underestimate kindness. When life is as fast as it is today, a warm smile and an act of kindness is priceless.
What inspires you?
People who are humbling, courageous, selfless, innovative. This applies to patients and colleagues.
Outside work what do you enjoy doing?
My mantra has always been work hard, play hard. I have a strong network of family and friends and I ensure I see them often. To keep active, I go running, do yoga and the latest fitness fad… Fight Klub (interval training and boxing, but no Brad Pitt).
What nursing achievement are you proudest of?
A huge achievement was completing my master's dissertation when my daughter was nine months old. It was a shock at obtaining 100%.
What advice would you give a newly qualified nurse in your field?
Be curious, ask questions if you don’t understand and challenge if you disagree. Always treat others as you wish to be treated – colleagues and patients – no matter how they treat you. Maintain your professional integrity at all times. Remember, your body is a powerful intuitive communicator – trust your gut.