'It’s a privilege to work with such an amazing group of patients' - Q&A with a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)

January 2, 2020
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Lorna Welsh is an Anthony Nolan Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) working at The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow. Every Anthony Nolan CNS delivers specialised care to patients, providing information, guidance and support. Here Lorna talks to us about how she became a CNS, describes her typical day working with transplant patients in Glasgow and what she enjoys most about the role.

How did you become an Anthony Nolan Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS)?

When I qualified as a nurse, I started off my career in the bone marrow transplant unit in Glasgow Royal Infirmary. I rotated between the oncology, haematology and transplant units. Moving through various hospitals in Glasgow – Royal Infirmary to Beatson, and to Queen Elizabeth where I am today.

A year ago, I decided to make a change. I continued with shifts in the transplant unit but also undertook a project about transforming care after treatment. This provided a lot of insight into how we follow up with patients after treatment.

The Anthony Nolan position then came up as that post was finishing, and it just seemed too good to be true! I was able to combine my years of experience working in transplantation with the insight into the follow-up care. So I applied for the job and was delighted when I got it. I really enjoy working in Transplantation, and I never wanted to move anywhere else. It’s always interesting and always evolving. It’s made me want to stay here!

What does your typical working day involve?

Every day is different, and I really like that. I work part time – three days a week and attend outpatient clinics on those days. The job varies – I form assessments, carry out Day 100 assessments, GvHD assessments and one-year-on assessments.

On one of the days I also work closely with the consultant reviewing patients, and I attend weekly multidisciplinary team meetings (where a team of doctors, nurses and health care professionals discuss a patient’s treatment).

I’m also there for patients who’d like to see me in between assessments, and I try to get to the ward to see patients before they’re discharged from hospital, so they have a familiar face when they come to clinics.

The rest of the days are spent in the office, following up blood results, arranging treatments for patients, phoning GPs and families, and responding to emails.

As a CNS in Scotland, you cover a large geographical area, what challenges does this bring?

Fortunately we are really well supported by local haematology departments across Scotland and we keep in regular contact. If there are any issues, we can contact each other to address. Technology these days is also really helpful. We have video links with the patients.  Communication is so vital and knowing there are people out there to get in touch with if any problems arise makes all the difference.

Being a CNS sounds like a very busy job! What do you do in your spare time to keep you balanced?

I have a dog! She’s called Lily and she enjoys a good walk – I usually walk her before or after work, and give her a longer walk on my days off. I like to walk the dog as much as I can, and catch up with family and friends on my days off. I’m a mum of five so looking after the children keeps me very busy. The youngest is 10 and the oldest is 21 so they’re all at home.

Clearly you’ve supported many different patients. Are there any patient stories that stand out for you?

Part of my job is that I work alongside the late effects clinic. We do follow-ups over the phone together for the patients. It’s been working really well. As I’ve been working in this area for over 20 years, old names from the past do come up. It’s lovely to speak to them and hear how they are, how their life is now and what they’re up to. I love that part of the job.

Lastly, what do you enjoy most about your role as a CNS?

There’s not one aspect alone, I have huge enthusiasm and like all aspects of the role. Each part has its own challenges. However, I find the job so rewarding in many ways. I try my hardest to support the patients as well as I can. It’s just a privilege to work along such an amazing group of patients who always inspire me, to be honest with you. They go through some really tough times and get through it. It’s just inspiring to see them manage it all and cope so well. I can support them further by referring on to other members of the multidisciplinary team too, so we can work together to fully support the patient. We meet regularly so having the team there as quick access for further patient support is great.

Find out more about our Clinical Nurse Specialists and the transplant centres where they are based