My job

‘Remain curious, never stop learning and speak up’

Macmillan nurse clinician Claire Ryan on the importance of seeking out a mentor in a chosen field of practice

Macmillan nurse clinician Claire Ryan on the importance of seeking out a mentor in a chosen field of practice

Macmillan nurse clinician Claire Ryan

What does your job involve?

I am a Macmillan nurse clinician at the Kent Oncology Centre, which is part of Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust. I maintain the professional leadership, consultancy and managerial responsibility for policy and service development that will deliver quality care for those who are living with secondary breast cancer and receiving treatment. 

Much of my practice is to assess a patient, make a diagnosis and provide treatment – like a doctor. However, care is not always treatment-related, and this is where my nursing background is fundamental to the role. A diagnosis of secondary breast cancer can mean that people have to make changes in their life. My role is to support those patients from the time of diagnosis to live their life as best as possible.

I work collaboratively with a larger multiprofessional healthcare team and charities, but specifically oncology consultants and specialist palliative care teams in secondary and primary care.

Why did you become a nurse?

I cannot recall a time when I did not want to nurse. I had an aunt who was a nurse and she encouraged me to pursue the profession. She had great job satisfaction and it never sounded boring.

How did you come to work in the field?

I always thought I would work in paediatrics. My final placement as a nursing student was in oncology. It was an enlightening experience. Progressing through this placement gave me an insight into a field that I chose to specialise in.

I was the lead oncology research nurse at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust for 17 years, leading strategically and clinically from its inception to its expansive service. I took clinical leadership for the breast cancer clinical trials – the research nurse role fulfilled a surrogate part of the key worker for those living with secondary breast cancer. This career path laid much of the foundation for my role as a Macmillan nurse clinician.

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

Cancer nurses will need to form part of a more educationally able workforce that can take on new and complex roles to remain focused on patient care. The use of technology needs to be further embraced by nurses. We need career pathways that sustain a future workforce.

What qualities do you think a cancer nurse should possess?

Professional knowledge, skill, compassion, empathy, approachability, attentiveness, emotional intelligence and resilience.

What inspires you?

Patients who have a life-limiting disease yet live their lives knowing that they cannot do everything – but what they can do, they do it well. My patients teach me a great deal about what is important.

What nursing achievement are you proudest of?

I have developed two major services that have benefitted hundreds of patients and their families. For this, I received the Kent Hospital Hero award in 2015. It was humbling that families had selflessly nominated me to recognise and share with others how I cared for them.

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

Remain curious, never stop learning and do not be afraid to ask and speak up.

It is important to take care of yourself and seek out a mentor – someone who inspires you and who could help coach you as you progress.








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