My job

My job: clinical nurse specialist

Millicent Blake-McCoy qualified as a primary school teacher, but the pull of nursing was too strong

Millicent Blake-McCoy qualified as a primary school teacher, but the pull of nursing was too strong

What is your job?

I am the lead Macmillan haemato-oncology clinical nurse specialist at North Middlesex University Hospital. I am currently undertaking an MSc course in cancer care advanced nursing practice.

What does your job involve?

I am a key worker for patients from diagnosis and then throughout their treatment, and seek to empower people in living with and beyond cancer.

As a multidisciplinary team member, I contribute to the decision-making process for patients’ care pathways.

Besides providing expert and professional advice I am the communication resource for other members of the multidisciplinary team. I engage in specialist teaching to nursing students and am the trust’s designated nurse lead for training in the administration of intrathecal chemotherapy.

In addition, I run nurse-led specialist clinics undertaking independent non-medical prescribing, physical and advanced clinical assessment.

Why did you become a nurse?

I always wanted to work in a caring profession. I did a teacher training course and qualified as primary school teacher, which was a satisfying role. However, the desire to be a nurse remained. Eight years later I did my nurse training.

Why did you choose to specialise? Or if you didn’t choose, how did you come to work in the field?

During my nurse training I did a placement with the palliative team. I was astounded by the quality of nursing care delivered by the team in the community, ward rounds, at the hospice and in outpatient clinics. I saw cases that I was told I would never see again. I knew then that I wanted to work in cancer care. I worked in acute medicine for one year and joined the cancer unit as soon as there was a vacancy.

What might you have done otherwise?

I would have worked as a diabetic nurse, as there is a high incidence of it on both sides of my family.

Where have you worked previously?

I have worked on the haematology unit at the Royal Free Hospital in London and the haematology-oncology unit at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

Before that I worked in acute medicine at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Working with patients and their relatives for the best possible outcomes, and working collaboratively with the multidisciplinary team.

What are the challenges for cancer nursing practice in the 21st century?

We face a shortage of staff on cancer wards and chemotherapy units, meaning we have less time to support cancer patients.

Cancer services are becoming busier due to the increased number of patients, and we have longer waiting times for review in outpatient clinics and in the chemotherapy department.

In addition, there’s been a drop in funding to develop nurses and a reduction in experienced specialist nurses.

What qualities do you think a cancer nurse should possess?

Good communication skills, empathy, knowledge of holistic cancer care, compassion, a caring manner, honesty, commitment and being hard-working.

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

I usually go to the gym at least three times a week. I recently started the NHS couch to 5k training. I enjoy going on cruises and travelling around the world, and also gardening.

What nursing achievement are you proudest of?

My current role as a haemato-oncology clinical nurse specialist. Also completing my BSc degree in haemato-oncology and qualifying as an independent non-medical prescriber.

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

Be a good communicator, show empathy, be thorough, listen to patients and their relatives. Be sure to read and do research relevant to your job role, and seek opportunities to develop your skills and knowledge.

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