Nursing: life as an oncology nurse


To mark International Nurses’ Day (12th May), the Harley Street Medical Area is spending the week celebrating the role of nurses. Today, we hear from members of the team at The Royal Marsden’s new diagnostic and treatment facility in Cavendish Square about their experiences as oncology nurses at a world-leading hospital

Paige Mitchell, staff nurse, Cavendish Square

Paige Mitchell

Paige Mitchell, staff nurse, Cavendish Square
The Royal Marsden is known for delivering the gold standard of cancer care and I moved from Edinburgh to London this year just to take up this nursing opportunity! Oncology is so diverse. There are more than 200 different types of cancer, so it’s hugely varied, and no two days or patients are ever the same. Each cancer comes with its own side effects, treatment options, research and funding – it’s unlike any other area of nursing.

When a patient gets a cancer diagnosis, they start a journey like no other. As nurses, we are very much part of that journey with them. You feel connected to the patient journey as everyone knows a friend, loved one or someone close to them who has been affected by cancer. It’s a privilege to be part of the ‘big fight’ against cancer and meet so many different patients every day. They are my favourite part of the job.

At Cavendish Square, we are looking after patients who are coming in for treatment on the Medical Day Unit, facilitating blood tests and preparing and administering their chemotherapy or immunotherapy. Across the outpatient department, we’ll be supporting consultants who are running clinics in all the main tumour groups and assisting with screening, so patients can get a quicker, earlier diagnosis. We’ll be there to provide patients with clinical and practical information, but also for moral support and reassurance at all times.

Beth Goldsworthy, staff nurse, Cavendish Square

Beth Goldsworthy

Beth Goldsworthy, staff nurse, Cavendish Square
I previously worked in trauma nursing, but once I’d decided I wanted to pursue a career in oncology nursing, I couldn’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than The Royal Marsden. For patients, cancer is such a journey and to be able to help them in this role is such a privilege. Being a nurse is such a rewarding job and there are so many opportunities to support patients, both on a clinical and personal level. With cancer, we often get to know patients over a much longer period as they can be under our care for years, often having different treatments as part of clinical trials. Building those relationships is really special.

Cavendish Square will enable our nursing team to feel empowered in their roles as it’s such a unique environment. This will hugely benefit patients, who will be reassured in having the same nurses care for them every time they come to the centre. Being able to offer one-to-one bespoke cancer care to patients in such high-end, calming surroundings will make a huge difference.

I think that the challenges of working through the pandemic have made us more resilient and refined our skills in a way that will support us all in our roles, both mentally and physically. With oncology nursing, being able to read between the lines and really listen to patients is so important.

Farzana Baksh, deputy matron, Cavendish

Farzana Baksh

Farzana Baksh, deputy matron, Cavendish Square 
I’ve been in the nursing team at The Royal Marsden for 10 years and am looking forward to bringing this experience and expertise to the team at Cavendish Square.

Over the past decade, cancer nursing has changed enormously, and nurses have been empowered to take on extended roles such as prescribing drugs and interpreting diagnostic tests. This enables autonomous working, critical thinking and independent decision-making, which makes nursing a much more exciting and complex role – but equally helps us to deliver much better patient care. At Cavendish Square, the focus is all about patient-centred care and the nursing team will be leading on this delivery, especially in the Medical Day Unit where patients will be receiving some of the most advanced cancer treatments.

The Royal Marsden is research-led, which also opens up more opportunities for the nursing team. Research has allowed nurses to change practice by adapting or implementing new policies to enhance patient care and to be at the forefront of the latest clinical studies.

Becky Bourne, matron, Cavendish Square

Becky Bourne

Becky Bourne, matron, Cavendish Square
As matron for Cavendish Square, I have oversight of all the clinical areas, leading the nursing and advance nurse practitioner teams across our Medical Day Unit, Outpatients and Minor Procedure Suite. My role is to ensure high standards of clinical care, patient safety and the best possible patient experience.

There has been a huge amount of development to enhance the patient experience at Cavendish Square, which will create multiple benefits for patients at all levels and with different types of cancer. Examples such as direct booking so patients won’t be worried at home, wondering if they’ve got an appointment; a new nursing model that will provide patients with enhanced clinic nurse support; faster turn-around time on blood and imaging results; and, of course, a calming and comfortable environment, to name a few.

Making a difference to patients’ lives and being part of such a great team are my favourite parts of the job.