My job

‘Never lose sight of the person within your patient’

Advanced nurse practitioner Jane Billing, lead for a urology oncology nurse specialist service, talks about her passion for her job

Advanced nurse practitioner Jane Billing, lead for a urology oncology nurse specialist service, talks about her passion for her job


Picture: David Gee

What is your job?

I am a urology oncology advanced nurse practitioner and lead for the urology oncology nurse specialist service at the Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust.

What does your job involve?

My role involves working independently in nurse-led clinics, supporting patients and their families through their diagnostic and treatment pathway. My extended skills enable me to see patients directly from the GP for assessment, arrange further investigations or undertake their biopsies. I then see them again to give them their results, arrange scans and onward referral, and start them on treatment.

I run several nurse-led clinics – two-week wait one-stop clinics, trans-rectal ultrasound-guided prostate biopsy clinics, day case trans-perineal prostate biopsy lists, biopsy results clinics and health and well-being clinics. I am an independent nurse prescriber.

I am a core member of the multidisciplinary team and contribute to treatment planning for patients.

In addition, I support and lead a progressive, hardworking urology oncology nurse specialist team and teach other health professionals including GPs and medical and nursing students.

Why did you become a nurse?

I wanted to be a nurse from a young age. Joining the St John Ambulance Cadets fuelled this ambition further.

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

I actually applied for a staff nurse post on a vascular ward but was offered a post on a urology ward. I accepted the urology post and from that moment began my passion for urology. After several years on the ward I took a nurse specialist role in the community. I enjoyed the autonomy of this role and felt that the nurse specialist role was definitely for me. I was pleased to secure a urology oncology nurse specialist post and extend my practice to progress to my current post as an advanced nurse practitioner.

What might you have done otherwise?

Perhaps I would have considered a research role, as I had some involvement in a clinical trial that I found fascinating.

Where have you worked previously?

I qualified at Ealing Hospital and worked on a vascular ward before returning to Devon and working for several years on the urology ward at Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital. I then took a post as a community continence adviser and ran an erectile dysfunction clinic alongside a GP. I have worked part-time as a cancer audit facilitator, recording and reporting on cancer data.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Supporting patients and their families in nurse-led clinics from referral, through their diagnostic pathway to commencing them on treatment and beyond their cancer treatment. I enjoy the continuity of patient care and working alongside urology consultants, my nurse specialist colleagues ward team and management to maintain high-quality care and improve services.

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

The public are more aware of their health and are presenting earlier with suspected cancers. The challenge will be meeting increasing patient demand, supporting patients who are living longer after cancer treatments to self-manage side effects, and managing patient expectations in current cancer timed pathways.

What qualities do you think a cancer nurse should possess?

A good team worker with the ability to think laterally. Excellent communication skills, empathy, an ability to see the ‘whole patient’ and energy to work tirelessly to secure the best outcome for patients. Good problem-solving skills are an asset and a good sense of humour is a bonus.

Outside work what do you enjoy doing?

Visiting my grown-up children, gardening, DIY, taking care of my pet dogs, cats, ferrets, terrapins, snakes and many koi carp.

What nursing achievement are you proudest of?

Being nominated with my team for the Cancer Nursing Practice Award at the 2017 RCNi Nurse Awards and reaching the final.

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

Never lose sight of the person within your patient. Cancer targets are important but doing the right thing for your patient is more important. Treat your patients as you would hope to have a loved one treated and take every opportunity to develop within your role.

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