My job

My job: oncology research nurse Alex Franklin

Oncology research nurse Alex Franklin is inspired by the ‘phenomenal’ treatment developments for patients with renal cancer and metastatic melanoma 
Alex Franklin

Oncology research nurse Alex Franklin is inspired by the phenomenal treatment developments for patients with renal cancer and metastatic melanoma

What is your job?

Oncology research nurse at South West Wales Cancer Institute, Singleton Hospital, Swansea.

Why did you become a cancer research nurse?

At a time when I was looking for career progression, I got to know an oncology research nurse who was attending a patient on my ward, which sparked my interest. Soon after, I saw an advert for the role and applied. Having lost my father to prostate cancer in 1993 I already had an interest in cancer care and my dissertation in 2000 was oncology based.

Why did you choose to specialise in research?

It provided me with a new challenge, career progression and an opportunity to be at the forefront of cancer research and the

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Oncology research nurse Alex Franklin is inspired by the ‘phenomenal’ treatment developments for patients with renal cancer and metastatic melanoma 

What is your job?

Oncology research nurse at South West Wales Cancer Institute, Singleton Hospital, Swansea.

Why did you become a cancer research nurse?

At a time when I was looking for career progression, I got to know an oncology research nurse who was attending a patient on my ward, which sparked my interest. Soon after, I saw an advert for the role and applied. Having lost my father to prostate cancer in 1993 I already had an interest in cancer care and my dissertation in 2000 was oncology based.

Why did you choose to specialise in research?

It provided me with a new challenge, career progression and an opportunity to be at the forefront of cancer research and the discovery of new treatments for patients.

Where did you train?

After my divorce and with two children I could not go away to train so remained in Swansea. I worked as a healthcare support worker until I could start my nursing degree in 1997.

Where have you worked previously?

When I first qualified, I agreed to do an 18-month rotation, spending 6 months in ophthalmology, 6 months in colorectal surgery and 6 months in the emergency department. After the rotation I chose to work in ophthalmology. I loved working in ophthalmology and would have worked towards an ophthalmic diploma but changes made in the department would have meant this was not possible.


Oncology research nurse Alex Franklin

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The variety. Research nurses have a lot of patient contact, which is emotional, entertaining, challenging and everything in between. We get to know patients and their families and have the satisfaction of knowing we made a difference to their lives.

I am also passionate about teaching other healthcare professionals, nursing students and medical students. It’s important to share the role of research with other staff members and highlight the obligation we have to participate in research, for the patient’s benefit and as part of our responsibility to the Welsh Government.

What is the greatest challenge?

For some time I worked alone and, although I was exceptionally busy, I knew exactly what was going on. My main trial sites are three fast-growing areas – renal, melanoma and prostate – so I am now the team lead of five and part of my role is to ensure that the team covers all the work.

What achievement are you proudest of?

I’m proud of my team. We work together in such a professional and happy way.

What would you change if you could? 

Nothing, I love my job.

Where would you like to be in 5 years’ time?

If I was a few years younger I would consider incorporating even more teaching into my role as I feel passionate about sharing knowledge. But I’m 58 and have a home in France, so unless a change of plan is forced on me, I would have to say ‘living in the Charente’.

What makes a good cancer nurse?

Humour, good listening skills, good organisational abilities and sensitivity.

What inspires you?

The development of new drugs. There have been immense improvements in the treatments of the cancer sites I am involved with and I’m so excited to have been part of this transition. For many years there were so few treatment options for patients with renal cancer and metastatic melanoma, however, since 2010 the progress has been phenomenal. Patients are now surviving for years longer than could previously have been imagined. How could that not be inspiring?

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

We have a business so I am also involved with that, but as a couple we enjoy touring Europe.

What advice would you give a newly qualified cancer nurse?

Remember patients are also people so it is OK to use humour if that is your style, just be yourself. Undoubtedly the most important quality I have garnered is that sometimes you should take time to be quiet and listen to your patient. Nurses like to ‘fill in the gaps’, but it’s OK to be silent sometimes.


Further information

Find out more about Cancer Research UK’s clinical trials database at cruk.org/trials

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