Career advice

Charities offer a rewarding career

Making an impact in an area of health care that you are passionate about is the ideal for many nurses – and charities can help to make it a reality.

Making an impact in an area of health care that you are passionate about is the ideal for many nurses – and charities can help to make it a reality

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Mesothelioma UK is one of many UK charities that provide money for specialist nursing posts. Currently, it funds 14 nurses, who are employed by trusts to support those with this rare form of asbestos-related cancer for 2 days each week. ‘It enables nurses to become experts in a niche area,’ says Liz Darlison, the charity’s director of services and a consultant nurse at the University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.

Formally registered as a charity in 2008, the organisation has been funding part-time nurse specialist posts since 2012, with the eventual aim of doubling the number to 28. ‘We want to see every region of the UK covered by a specialist nurse,’ says Ms Darlison.

Once funds have been earmarked, the charity calls for expressions of interest from trusts who want to employ a nurse to specialise in this form of cancer, which is diagnosed in up to 2,500 people a year. The board of trustees makes a final decision on where the new post is created, taking into account each trust’s managerial support and level of commitment.

Particular role

In essence it is a partnership, with nurses employed by the trust, but funded through the charity, on the basis of a service level agreement. When necessary, Mesothelioma UK can also help to draw up a job description and be part of the interview process.

‘Without our funding, trusts would not be able to employ these nurses,’ says Ms Darlison. ‘It would be difficult to meet the expectations of those who have such a rare form of cancer without this arrangement.’

Most commonly, this particular role appeals to lung cancer nurse specialists who have developed a real interest in this cancer and want to be able to pursue it further.

Use your passion

Alongside clinical work, nurses play their part in running patient support groups, supporting clinical trials, being an expert resource for other healthcare professionals, attending regular training and development sessions, and supporting the charity’s helpline, which runs from Monday to Friday.

For nurses keen to follow a similar career pathway, Ms Darlison says that an overriding and demonstrable passion for your area of practice is essential to success. ‘It’s something that you’ve probably developed over a number of years,’ she says.

This can mean helping to set up small clinical studies, being published and networking with the key players in your specialist area.

‘Find out where the events are, join a professional group and make links with a national charity,’ she advises. ‘Use your passion to reach a wider number of people and make a bigger impact.’

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Lynne Pearce is a freelance health writer

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