Press release posted 20 April 2023
A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event. And whilst doctors have overall responsibility for treating cancer patients, clinical nurse specialists are an essential part of the team caring for patients at Manchester’s internationally acclaimed cancer centre, The Christie.
The role of clinical nurse specialist (CNS) will be celebrated on 26 April 2023 through Cancer CNS Day. The day provides an opportunity to showcase this pivotal role and the significant impact that cancer CNSs have on patients.
Clinical nurse specialists at The Christie often form unique and meaningful connections with their patients.
Here we speak to one of The Christie’s patients Julie Colville, about how she values the support of her clinical nurse specialist, Marie Eaton. And we hear from Marie about how she supports patients like Julie and hundreds of others at The Christie every year.
The patient – Julie Colville
Julie Colville, age 67, a retired clinical psychologist living in Withington, has nothing but praise for her clinical nurse specialist at The Christie, Marie Eaton.
Marie and Julie met initially through a lung cancer support group. “I have known Marie for the last 2 or 3 years,” says Julie. “She always puts the patient first and knows the right thing to say. Marie can adapt to different people and fits in what each patient needs at the time. And she is like this with all her patients and everyone in the lung support group.
“Marie is incredibly kind and compassionate and has saved me emotionally several times. She is really good at giving me hope that something can and will be done but is not insincere in her positivity. She helps me understand what might lie ahead and never dismisses my natural concerns and worries.
“I live alone, and my closest family are nearly 100 miles away and older. Marie always provides a sympathetic listening ear and emotional support. I spend a lot of time on my own sorting things out, so it is great to have Marie to help. She always offers practical support but is good at knowing when to help me and when to let me be independent and not take over.”
“Marie doesn’t just have specialist knowledge about lung cancer; she understands the health system and the hospital and how to get the best for her patients quickly. She is tenacious and can think outside the box; she won’t stop until she has done what her patients need. Marie is a great team player. She loves her team; they all work so well together to help their patients.
"In early February 2023, I had horrible pain in the hip and was worried the cancer may have gone to my bones. I saw the GP for it, who did the best they could. After 3 weeks, it wasn't easy to get answers despite a scan and an A&E visit. Then, I got The Christie involved. Speaking to my wonderful consultant and working with Marie got things moving incredibly quickly.
“Marie was great at acknowledging my worries. She is very empathetic. When I was desperate for help with the bone pain and answers to the cause, she would still be at work at 6.30pm or 7pm when I knew she should have gone home already. Marie worked hard to get me admitted and arranged an urgent bed for me in two days so the pain could be sorted and further urgent tests could be carried out.
“I knew that whatever the tests showed and whatever happened, Marie would be there for me, and that was a huge reassurance. An urgent MRI scan was arranged, thankfully showing that the cancer had not spread to my bones. The pain might be osteoarthritis or nerve pain, but Marie has been great at asking me what she can do to help relieve it and where to go from here.
"Cancer is complex, so you need someone in the role of clinical nurse specialist who is highly specialist and works as part of a team. Marie is totally professional and very knowledgeable. I know that she is regularly updating her knowledge and skills to be able to provide me with the very best care. I value what Marie does for me every bit, as much as I value my consultant's case management. Marie adds a different layer of care and support."
The cancer clinical nurse specialist - Marie Eaton
“Our patients deserve an advocate to guide and care for them”, says Marie. “What I have done to help Julie is no different from what I would do to help any cancer patient in that situation. As a cancer clinical nurse specialist, I aim to give all my patients and their families the very best care and specialist nursing support possible through their cancer.
“Patients want nurses with time to talk, who can listen and show genuine care. Even if we can't stop cancer, there is much we can do to improve people's lives so that they can live well with cancer for as long as possible.
“Cancer clinical nurse specialists have an excellent knowledge base to answer complex questions and assess patients to ensure they receive timely care if they become unwell. In addition, I can quickly access advice from the consultant team to ease patient anxiety. And as an independent medical prescriber, my patients get medication faster.
“I provide practical advice and help, such as discussing what to expect from treatments and possible side effects, but I also offer psychological and emotional support.
“Sometimes, things that may seem trivial can cause tremendous distress, compounded by fear of the unknown and the horrible feeling of being out of control.
“As cancer clinical nurse specialists, we do our best to help patients regain some control, allowing them to focus on treatment and living as well as they can with cancer.
“My favourite part of the role is direct patient contact. I love meeting people, and it is such a privilege to help and support patients like Julie at such difficult times in their lives.
“I also love the problem-solving aspect of the role. No two patients are the same, and it's satisfying to sort out complex problems and get good outcomes.
“I work with 3 other lung clinical nurse specialists, and we cover clinics every day of the week, typically with 2 nurses present.
“We aim to meet all newly diagnosed patients and introduce our service to them and their families. We often see patients at their most upset and vulnerable at what is probably one of the worst moments of their life if they have been told they have cancer, but we know that we can help them through it. Patients value being able to put a face to a name and having someone they can contact. Enquiries can range from questions about appointments and scans to acute oncology assessments.
“I love the level of autonomy in this role. As my role is so varied and busy, there is a lot of job satisfaction. In addition, I can build therapeutic relationships with patients like Julie and meet almost everyone in the hospital.
“Over time, I’ve become an expert in my disease group, and I know that my medical colleagues highly value the specialist nurse role.
“I'm very proud to be a Christie nurse. The Christie has a reputation for being a centre of excellence, providing high-quality care to those who need it. There's such a sense of warmth and care. Everyone is so approachable and kind.
“I love my job and looking after patients like Julie. Knowing that I can make a difference is very gratifying, but I don't think of myself as special. I'm just doing my job in the best way possible. My mantra has always been to look after patients how I'd like my family to be looked after.”
National Cancer CNS Day
National Cancer CNS Day is co-led by the Greater Manchester Cancer Alliance, the United Kingdom Oncology Nursing Society (UKONS) and Macmillan with support from Health Education England and the Royal College of Nursing. For further information, please visit please visit the UKONS website.