My job: lead nurse for children's cancer and campaigner
Rachel Hollis is a stalwart RCN campaigner for children’s services. The former chair of the RCN’s children and young people’s specialist care forum has also received the honour of being made a fellow of the RCN.
Rachel Hollis is a stalwart RCN campaigner for children’s services. She is the former chair of the RCN’s children and young people’s specialist care forum and has received the honour of being made a fellow of the RCN.
What is your job?
Lead nurse for children’s cancer and matron for paediatric haematology and oncology in the children’s hospital at the Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. I have operational management responsibility for, and provide professional nursing leadership to the children’s haematology and oncology service in Leeds.
Why did you become a children’s nurse?
When I was training as a registered nurse paediatrics was the placement I was least looking forward to, but enjoyed the most. I loved the openness of children, the opportunity to work with the whole family, and the strong multidisciplinary ethos.
What might you have done otherwise?
I was always going to be a nurse. I was given my first nurses’ uniform when I was five. Later, I briefly considered being a ballet dancer or an actress, but had neither the talent nor the discipline required. If I had not been a children’s nurse I think I would have worked in care of the elderly – for similar reasons.
Where did you train?
I trained as a RGN at London’s St Mary’s Hospital, trained as a RSCN in Leeds and in paediatric oncology at the Royal Marsden.
Where have you worked previously?
I have worked in Leeds for almost all my professional life. After a short time as a staff nurse in London on a general adult medical ward, I went to Scarborough, to a general children’s ward, where I tested out my intention to train as a children’s nurse – while enjoying life by the seaside.
What do you enjoy most about it?
Working with children and young people, their families, listening to their stories and then trying to make sure that our service meets their needs. Collaborating with a large multidisciplinary team and some great colleagues who I really enjoy working with. Leading an excellent nursing team and supporting the continuing development of nursing skills and expertise and using those skills in role development.
What is the greatest challenge?
Ensuring that we have enough beds, nurses and other resources to provide the high quality of care we aspire to, and using those resources in an effective way at a time of increasing financial challenge.
What could you change if you could?
Train more children’s nurses to ensure we can continue to develop nursing roles across this and other specialities while maintaining expert knowledge and care where it is most needed – at the bedside. I would raise the profile of the Leeds Children’s Hospital. We are embedded in such a large organisation that the public and even our colleagues locally and nationally do not realise the breadth of the services we provide. We are actively trying to change this.
What qualities do you think a good children’s nurse should possess?
Empathy, a sense of humour, an ability to listen, and common sense.
What inspires you?
Seeing the skills, expertise and dedication of our team. I have also spent time in Cameroon, where I was inspired by the nurses in the childhood cancer programme who do great work with minimal resources, and understanding the commonalities we share in such different settings.
Outside work what do you enjoy doing?
Walking and travel, ideally combining the two.
What achievement are you proudest of?
Being made a fellow of the RCN and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro twice.
What advice would give a newly qualified children’s nurse?
Sit and listen to the stories told by children and their families about their illness, who they are, and about their experience of the service you work in.