Monday, 22 February 2016

If any nurses are considering working at The Christie I would highly recommend coming to the recruitment open day - Lauren Hunstone

Lauren Hunstone – Critical Care Unit Healthcare Assistant

Lauren Hunstone - Healthcare Assistant
My core inspiration to pursue a career in nursing came from watching how the nurses and staff cared for both my grandmas in the last days of their lives. I then went on to do various nursing home jobs and realised that nursing was definitely the career for me. 

After gaining experience and working for the evening community nursing service I felt I had enough transferable skills to work on a ward. I applied for a number of healthcare assistant posts in hospitals in the Stockport area and had no luck due to my lack of direct ward experience - so my confidence level fell.

Then I saw an advert on Facebook about a recruitment open day at The Christie back in October and as a lot of my nursing colleagues were already aware of my passion to become a nurse they also informed me of this fantastic opportunity.

I started to do some research; phoning the human resources team at The Christie to see what the recruitment day would entail and then did some online preparation as well. They said if I was a suitable candidate and could pass the Maths and English test, I would be interviewed, and if successful at this stage even given a position on the day. 

This was a very exciting prospect and I felt I really needed to do my absolute best to show I was competent to work in a ward based environment and that the skills I had would be beneficial to The Christie.

I also wanted to show I was enthusiastic to learn more in the future. I went through a number of competency based questions with a work colleague, who helped me to prepare for the interview and helped me understand what to expect. 

When the day came I was very nervous, but also excited to see what the day had to offer. It was a 10am start so I got there with plenty of time to spare. I had already filled out the online application form and brought along appropriate identification as advised, so I felt ready and prepared.

The recruitment area was full of lots of staff - all very friendly and welcoming. I could also see that it was going to get very busy, with lots of candidates excited at the prospect of working in such a lovely and positive hospital. 

To me, somebody who wants to study to become a staff nurse, the prospect of working at The Christie was so exciting. Being given the opportunity to work with such inspirational people and able to progress in the future is amazing.

All the candidates were split into small groups and the first thing we did was go on a tour of the hospital with one of the matrons at The Christie, Lyn Bushell. It was so interesting to see all the different departments of the hospital. 

I have been to The Christie before, to visit a relative, however coming back as a possible future member of staff was very different. There is an instant feeling of warmth when you enter The Christie. 

During the tour Lyn told us she had worked in a number of different roles across the hospital in various departments, before becoming a matron. This helped me to realise that The Christie is the kind of place where you are given the opportunity to progress and further your skills in areas that interest you. 

After the tour we took a simple Maths and English test. I was really worried about this, even though I did reasonably well at GCSE. But it was nothing to worry about as the majority of the questions are common sense.

I then had to wait to find out if I had passed the tests - which was the longest 15 minutes of my whole life!! 

Finally, I had my interview. The questions I had gone through with my colleague and the research I had done made me feel really confident as I felt I could answer each question fully. I also felt that the questions I was asked related to my own personal experiences which helped me to respond with relevant details.

A few days later (because so many people had applied) I got a call to say they wanted to offer me a 30 hour contract on Critical Care. This was literally the best news I've ever had. I cried on the phone and couldn't believe that my dream of working in a hospital environment, helping patients like my grandma was actually coming true. 

I have now been working on Critical Care for over two months and I absolutely love it. The experience and skills in caring for critically ill patients is invaluable to my nursing career. Over the next few years I hope to study for a degree in adult nursing.

I know that there is another recruitment open day coming up on 5th March – this time just for qualified staff nurses.

If any nurses are considering working at The Christie I would highly recommend coming to the recruitment open day. It’s a great way to find out what it’s really like to work here, you get to meet some lovely people and they do everything possible to see the full potential in you.

Prepare well for it because you never know what you might get asked, dress smartly, but most importantly good luck!

Staff nurse recruitment open day – Saturday 5th March 2016  from 10am to 2pm. Education Centre, The Christie, Manchester, M20 4BX. Apply at via NHS Jobs.

Monday, 15 February 2016

I had to try and find the very best cutting edge treatments that were being trialled - Diane Brooks

Diane Brooks - Christie Phase 1 Clinical Trials Patient

Diane Brooks
I became a patient at The Christie over 14 years ago when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 36. It wasn’t unexpected as I had a strong family history of the disease and soon after I discovered that it was a genetic fault and I was in fact a BRCA2 carrier.

Breast cancer was always part of my family and that’s why I was always interested in being a part of the research and learning aspect of my disease. I knew it could be a huge game-changer in my family’s future health.

Following surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy I remained cancer free until the summer of 2008 when it returned. It was a day I had always dreaded but somehow knew would come, as my cancer was aggressive and I knew from watching my mum struggle, it was going to try and beat me too.  

Once I had come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be cured, I set about trying to ‘live’ with my particular type of disease. Always thinking about the lack of understanding and choices of treatment my mum was probably faced with, I had to try and find the very best cutting edge treatments that were being trialled. Thankfully being a Christie patient meant that I was in the right place.

I was lucky enough to be part of trials involving existing chemotherapy treatments that were being aimed at my particular type of disease, but it was in September 2010 that I embarked on my first Phase 1 Trial for an unlicensed drug. I thought it would be scary but in fact it was such a relief, despite the fact that I didn’t know how it was going to effect me, or whether in fact it was going to give me any quality of life. 

I recognised that I was very lucky to be accepted onto the trial and that it was available to me at The Christie. I had done as much homework as possible on my disease and just felt that this was the right treatment for me to try at this time. I was so lucky that it did in fact give me three years of being able to get on with my busy life with my husband, four children and my career. 

To know that you are contributing towards future cancer treatments that can have far reaching effects on others, gives me such a worthwhile feeling, and of course, I am also keen to invest in my family’s future, as they are all going to be affected by this hereditary disease in years to come. I want the doctors to learn as much as possible about our hereditary disease whilst I am alive, so I am always happy to put myself forward for appropriate drug trials in order for them to do their invaluable work.

Being a clinical trials patient has it’s ups and downs and can be intense at times, but the Phase 1 team is expert at guiding me through and helping me manage side effects, at the same time as gathering all their important data which will form part of future cancer treatments – it’s such a privilege to be part of something that is so much bigger than just me. I continue to marvel at how fast things are moving forward in research, and even though I am a small part of it by trying these new treatments, it gives me hope for the future.

I wouldn’t hesitate in recommending a patient to speak to their oncologist about clinical trials - “You don’t get if you don’t ask” is always my motto. However, you do have to fit certain criteria for each trial so it is never a done deal and you have to be realistic. It is important to follow strict guidelines with new drugs, but I have always felt in safe hands with the Phase 1 Team at The Christie, who will spend as much time as is needed to talk me through every step of the protocol attached to each trial.  We always refer to them as our “hospital family” and we have got to know them very well over the years. In fact it says a lot when I have been there longer than a lot of the staff – they must be doing something right!  

I will be celebrating my 51st birthday next month and yes, I am still a Phase 1 patient at The Christie, trying something new, with my husband, family and “hospital family” holding my hand and helping me through, but most of all I am still “living” with my inherited disease, and I continue to hope that many people in the future will benefit from the knowledge gained from research and clinical trials that I have been so very lucky to be a part of at The Christie.

The Christie’s NIHR Clinical Research Facility is a large, high quality, dedicated clinical research environment where our patients can participate in complex and early phase clinical trials. Around 400 clinical trials may be taking place at any one time. In 2016, the NIHR is celebrating ten years of funding and supporting clinical research in the NHS.  

Monday, 1 February 2016

Being a young person with cancer can make you feel isolated - Sophie Vohra

Sophie Vohra - Patient in our Teenage and Young Adult Unit

Sophie Vohra
At the age of 23, one of the last things you expect to hear is that you have cancer. In April I was diagnosed with a Ewing’s Sarcoma on my sacrum. I had been suffering increasingly from bad pains and numbness down my right leg since January, which became so unbearable during March that I finally decided to visit my GP. 

Initially, we both thought that the pains were due to sciatica and that I should try to reposition the slipped disc into place with NHS recommended exercises and using anti-inflammatories to help with any swelling. Over the next two weeks I was unable to sleep because of the pain when lying down, having visited the GP again for pain relief that didn’t have any effect. 

I finally accidentally aggravated it so much after I had been swimming that I went into retention and had to go into A&E as we thought it may in fact be Cauda Equina Syndrome, which would require immediate surgery. 

When I was transferred to Salford Royal, they scheduled me for an MRI, assuming they would see a  slipped disc. Sadly what we got back was worse. There was in fact a lump that was pressing onto my spinal cord and at that point they didn’t know what type of mass it was. I therefore had a biopsy and after having to wait around two weeks I was told it was malignant and by the end of the month I was told it was a Ewing’s Sarcoma that was pressing on my nerves. 

Each time I received another piece of the puzzle as to what it was I would get upset for a little while and then I would get my head round it all.  I knew I would get all the treatment I would need and that I would have the incredible support of all my friends and family throughout it.

I started my treatment at the end of April at The Christie, and everyone and everything from the minute I walked in was incredible. My family and I never felt like we weren’t getting all the information we needed and the organisation of my treatment from the beginning was so efficient. 

I had all the initial tests done, I was randomised onto a trial regarding the administration of the chemotherapy for Ewing’s Sarcomas, had a Hickman Line inserted, and began treatment in the space of a few days. 

The fourteen cycles of chemotherapy over the months were tough and my body certainly found its way around most of the side effects – sore mouth, achy body, no blood cells… the list goes on! My treatment cycles occurred every two weeks, whereas the standard treatment is every three weeks. This meant I had very little time to feel well enough to do anything because as soon as I had recovered from the chemotherapy I almost immediately started the next dose. 

Being around some of the nicest doctors, nurses and other staff you will ever meet was also really comforting when, for several months, you feel like you spend almost all of your life in hospital. 

I was also very lucky to be put forward for Proton Beam Therapy treatment in America, as my tumour cannot be operated on. This treatment means that, as opposed to standard radiotherapy, less damage has been inflicted on the area surrounding my tumour and hopefully I have less of a chance of secondary cancer which can be caused by treatment. Having all of this available to me has meant I have received all the best opportunities to try and beat this horrible disease.

The Christie also has teams in place to make sure that your social and mental needs are looked after. A cancer diagnosis means you are plucked out of normality for a while, which is a huge shock to the system. 

With having to spend long periods of time receiving treatment on the ward, one of the things I am incredibly grateful for is the amount of facilities and activities that were made available. 

Both the Palatine ward and the day unit are designed to allow younger patients, their families and friends to have as enjoyable a time as possible while going through some really difficult times. The hospital provides modern single-occupancy rooms, a social hub for when you want to spend at least a little time out of bed, access to games and DVDs from the games room and a gym space amongst many other amazing things. Many people who have visited me on the ward couldn’t believe how wonderful it was and questioned if it was in fact a hospital! 

These facilities are also available for anyone no longer receiving treatment, which means that former patients can come to events held on the ward for example. We have all manner of events organised for us within and outside the hospital. There are band rehearsals, art workshops, language lessons, cooking and baking, a pizza and film night every Wednesday, and seasonal events such as a Halloween party held on the ward just to name a few. 

The teams also get tickets for music and sporting events, organise meals and get-togethers, and generally encourage a lot of interaction between all former and current patients. These are advertised on their Facebook page so we can easily be kept in the know. 

Being a young person  with cancer can make you feel isolated because it is less likely that we have come across someone in our lives who is going through the same thing at the same age. So being able to relate to others who are, or have been, in the same position as you is very important in understanding and coming to terms with the experience you and those close to you are going through.

I have finally come to the end of my treatment, with only the post-treatment scans to happen now, and I know I couldn’t have got through it without the incredible support of every single person who works with Teenage and Young Adult  patients. 

No one should ever have to go through a life-threatening illness like cancer, but places like The Christie and the facilities they have for young patients mean that we can not only get through our treatment, but can also continue to live a fulfilling and happy life as we do. 

I can move on now with my life, having started my PhD last month at the University of York. 

But I also have a very important network of people who I am very glad I met out of such an awful experience, and I will stay in touch with this group of inspiring young people who have come together through The Christie and the incredible staff who have supported us.