My job

60 Seconds with Macmillan consultant nurse Victoria Harmer

People in hospital are often vulnerable, so be kind and show humanity, says Macmillan consultant nurse Victoria Harmer.
Vikki_Harmer_tile.jpg

People in hospital are often vulnerable, so be kind and show humanity, says Macmillan consultant nurse Victoria Harmer

Macmillan consultant nurse (breast) Victoria Harmer qualified with distinction in 1995 and has devoted her career to caring for patients with cancer. She specialised in breast cancer 17 years ago, after taking up a clinical nurse specialist post at London's St Mary's Hospital in 2000. She has been in her current role at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust since October 2016, and is also a published author and script adviser for television programmes featuring breast cancer storylines.

What are your main work responsibilities? I manage ten nurse specialists and am heavily involved in service delivery and improvement for breast screening and symptomatic services. I also run a nurse-led nipple areola tattoo

...

People in hospital are often vulnerable, so be kind and show humanity, says Macmillan consultant nurse Victoria Harmer


Victoria Harmer says it is a privilege to care for patients with breast cancer.

Macmillan consultant nurse (breast) Victoria Harmer qualified with distinction in 1995 and has devoted her career to caring for patients with cancer. She specialised in breast cancer 17 years ago, after taking up a clinical nurse specialist post at London's St Mary's Hospital in 2000. She has been in her current role at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust since October 2016, and is also a published author and script adviser for television programmes featuring breast cancer storylines. 

What are your main work responsibilities?  
I manage ten nurse specialists and am heavily involved in service delivery and improvement for breast screening and symptomatic services. I also run a nurse-led nipple areola tattoo clinic and act as a key worker for people with breast cancer. 

How did you get your job?  
I started as breast CNS maternity cover, although I knew the role would become permanent, so the challenge was to make myself indispensable. 

Who are your clients/patients?
Anyone with breast problems. Mainly people with breast cancer, but also those with benign breast issues or those coming for breast screenings. 

What do you love about your job? 
Helping someone diagnosed with a potentially life-threatening disease is a privilege, and I work with a great team.

What do you find most difficult? 
Coming up with initiatives for smarter working and trying to do more with the same or fewer resources can be difficult. 

What is your top priority at work?
Maintaining the physical and psychological safety of patients and staff in the breast nurse specialist team.

How have you developed your skills in this role? 
I have a degree in nursing, an MBA and a doctorate. I have tried to fine-tune my listening skills to distil what is being said and understand patients' unmet needs.

If you hadn't become a nurse, what would you have done instead? 
I wanted to be a geologist on an oil rig or a marine biologist. I also considered joining the police and even went to New Scotland Yard for a visit. 

What is the best lesson nursing has taught you? 
Just be kind. People in hospital are often vulnerable and in crisis so show some humanity.  

What career advice would you give your younger self? 
Take advantage of a secondment overseas. I've always regretted not being an army nurse and not working overseas. 

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to nursing standard.com and the Nursing Standard app
  • Monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs