A day in the life of a Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist – Emma Robinson

To mark the first National Cancer CNS Day on 15/03/2022, we are featuring two members of this amazing workforce in our Alliance blog. Emma and Emily have shared with us what a typical day in this role can look and feel like. In this first of the two blogs we feature Emma. We are sure you will agree that her passion and commitment to her patients and the care she gives, comes through in absolute bucket loads.

Thank you for your time in producing this blog Emma, and a massive thank you to you and the rest of the Cancer CNS workforce for all you do for cancer patients and their families across our region.

Introducing Emma:

My name is Emma, I have been a Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist for the last 3 years, working at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead. I have two little children, Edward and Elizabeth all of which means I am very busy with work and children!

Why did you choose to become a Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist?

I have spent most of my career working in liver and HPB services. I also spent a couple of years working in intensive care, where I developed an interest in palliative and end of life care. I was attracted to this role because it brought together all my interests; gastroenterology, palliative and end of life care. It is a really diverse role; it can be emotionally and mentally tough sometimes but I love it.

What does a typical day look like for you Emma?

A typical day for me can start with a clinic. This morning I had a telephone clinic which involved me ringing patients to see how they are doing on their treatments and checking if they needed anything. I have referred a couple of patients for benefit advice and another I prescribed them some pain relief as I am a nurse prescriber.

Every day I will go up to the wards to see patients, this is a very important part of my day. I will go to see newly diagnosed patients to offer them support, explaining the initial tests and treatments they are going to have. Sometimes it might be just to say hello to check-in on them or it can be for specific procedures. We also support junior doctors answering their questions as well as offering advice and guidance.

I also spend a proportion of my day answering emails from patients and going through letters from GP’s and doctors. We give patients our email address along with our telephone number because we know that many prefer to send an email when they have a question they want to ask.  Sending emails is definitely not age specific. Many of my older patients are more tech’ savvy than some of the younger ones and really welcome the opportunity to contact us this way.

What do you think your support means to the patients you care for?

The support that we are able to give to patients is really important. Many of them will be referred to the RVI or Freeman Hospital in Newcastle for their treatment. We provide a link back to their local hospital; a named person and that local contact. Sometimes they may have questions that are not directly related to their cancer treatment and they will come to us as nurses from their local hospital.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

The things that I enjoy most are the “little wins” that we can do for our patients. One of the things my colleague and I always say is, “what can we do to make this journey better for our patients”? It can be small things like, arranging for a patients’ pet to visit them, or with one lady recently, helping her to wash her hair and have a shower before she went to the hospice. Sometimes the small things can be the most important to our patients, particularly those who are at the end of their life.

I recently received a card from a patients’ family member. They said, “thank you for all you did on the day of his diagnosis, you wrapped a warm blanket of care around us”.

What would you say to someone who is considering becoming a Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist?

This role is a fantastic career pathway for development. You need a good basic background on the ward or in a department. It is also important to identify a tumour site that you are passionate about. I always knew that this was where I wanted to be. This role has allowed me to really develop my skills as a nurse. Examining patients, becoming a nurse prescriber, and part of the multi-disciplinary team has all given me more confidence and an increased ability to advocate for my patients. It has also provided me with a greater level of autonomy.

For early signs and symptoms information please access the links below:

Pancreatic Cancer

Oesophageal Cancer

Bile Duct Cancer