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Celebrating Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist Day


The 15 March 2022 marks Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) day. We in the Western Trust want to celebrate our cancer clinical nurse specialists, raise awareness of the role and recognise the contribution that they make to patients and families as well as to the wider multidisciplinary team.

It is widely recognised that having access to a CNS improves the quality and experience of care for our patients. The role of the cancer CNS is to provide information and support for patients and families regarding their diagnosis and treatment. The CNS acts as a keyworker, assesses the holistic needs of the patient and makes appropriate referrals to other services to ensure that the care provided is tailored to their specific needs.

In the Western Trust, we have 22 cancer CNSs across lung, breast, colorectal, haematology, gynae, urology, upper gastrointestinal, skin and head and neck tumour sites as well as a radiotherapy CNS. Some of our Clinical Nurse Specialists have been kindly funded by Macmillan Cancer Support.

On this day of celebration of the CNS role, we spoke to Natalie Martin and Maria McCloskey who are haematology CNSs at the North West Cancer Centre about their roles.

Natalie said

“As a CNS, I provide regular and ongoing support to patients who have been diagnosed with a haematological cancer. I am with the patients when they receive their diagnosis and I act as a point of contact for them throughout their cancer journey. We are often told by patients that they feel more informed and involved in decisions about their treatment as they are able to ask questions and talk through their worries and concerns with their CNS.”

She added:

“I really enjoy being a haematology CNS. It is a privilege to be able to support patients and their families through what is a very frightening time in their lives. As their keyworker, patients are provided with my contact details and have easy access to me should they require advice or support. I assess patients holistically so that symptoms or side effects of treatment can be identified early and managed appropriately thus reducing the need for hospitalisation. I also provide psychological, social and financial advice and signpost patients to services which can help support them throughout their treatment.”



Maria McCloskey said

“Part of our role as a CNS is also working alongside other members of the multi-disciplinary team. We work closely with the Consultants, pharmacists, AHPs, staff in the outpatient department, Sperrin Unit and Ward 50, as well as other services such as GP’s and community nursing teams. We act as a link for our patients with the different teams and help co-ordinate and plan their care to make their cancer journey as seamless as possible.

“To work as a CNS, for me is a very special and privileged role. We develop such close relationships with patients and their families. It is extremely fulfilling to be part of a patients journey at this very difficult time in their lives. It is a very rewarding job, and I would encourage nurses to consider specialist nursing roles if there is a speciality they are passionate about”.

One patient, Clare Quinn, who has been supported recently by Maria McCloskey said:

“’Maria has been and still is an essential part of my cancer journey. Having a direct line to her has been very reassuring throughout my treatment. I know that I could ask her anything and no question is too silly. She always kept me well informed with anything that was going on relating to my treatment, I believe she went above and beyond her job role to ensure I was OK and understood everything that was going on. She done this in a kind, friendly and caring manner. Going through a tough journey such as cancer is hard at the best of times but having someone like Maria made it so much more tolerable and I will be forever grateful to her.”

Speaking about the invaluable contribution that the CNS team makes, Consultant Haematologist, Dr Feargal McNicholl said

“Cancer nurse specialists play a central role in the delivery of care to patients with cancer. They are the key workers who ensure care is co-ordinated and delivered in a smooth, timely and compassionate way. They work closely with other members of the multi-disciplinary team to reduce suffering and bring a patient centered perspective that leads to innovation and improvement in services. With their excellent communication skills, empathy and specialist knowledge, they are able to support and guide patients through the most difficult days of their lives. Cancer nurse specialists make a massive difference to many patients and we’d be lost without them!”