In My Own Words: Marie Pennell- Haematology Nurse Specialist

In the latest in our series, “In my Own Words”, introducing some of the team  in the CCHU who make it the special place it is, we are focusing on Marie: how she came to be doing her job, the background experience she brings to it and what the job  entails.

Marie’s quiet, caring presence is well known to haematology patients going through diagnosis and treatment in the CCHU and on ward 5. Doctors and patients alike appreciate her ability to know everyone, and to organise and to keep an eye on things, in a calm and unflustered manner. We thought many people would like to know a bit more about how she came to be doing this job, the background experience she brings to it and what it involves.

”  My background

I was born and raised in Ireland, trained as a nurse and midwife in Dublin, and later came to the UK to work as an ITU nurse. It was there that I became interested in oncology and haematology. When the chemotherapy unit was set up many years ago in Stoke Mandeville, I changed direction again and trained as a chemotherapy nurse and took a degree in cancer care.

After the merger of Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe hospitals, I spent 3 years managing the chemotherapy day unit in the Sunrise Unit at Wycombe.

When the haematology departments of the two hospitals merged and moved into ward 5 on the Stoke Mandeville site, with its 4 new specialist isolation rooms, I took up the role of Haematology clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS). My role includes providing support, information and education for haematology patients diagnosed with leukaemia, lymphoma and myeloma and taking them through intensive treatment, sometimes including bone marrow transplantation.

What I do – examples of a normal day

My main role is to support haematology patients at diagnosis and during treatment. This starts with being present when patients get their diagnosis and spending time with them and their families to answer their questions. I provide a contact number so that patients can get in touch if questions arise later or if there are any problems during treatment.

I assess all patients before chemotherapy, from the point of view of both physical and psychological needs, to try and address potential problems before they occur. This holistic approach includes giving information about other members of the team who are here to support patients through treatment, such as Citizen advice bureau (CAB), Complimentary therapy, the dietician and the community Macmillan team. I also give information about the process of administering  chemotherapy and discuss potential side effects.

Bone marrow stem cell transplants have become an important part of treatment for some patients with serious blood disorders such as myeloma and lymphoma, and I have a key role in co-ordinating these procedures. I liaise with the National Blood Service (NBS) in Oxford to set up the harvest of the stem cells and then arrange admission to the haematology ward for high dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplantation. This is an intensive procedure involving a stay in hospital, for part of the time in isolation. Providing information and education and daily support throughout is vital to reduce anxiety, give back a degree of control, and ensure the success of the procedure.

Support is not just required during the acute phases of diagnosis and treatment and patients can feel very alone as they complete treatment and try to return to a normal life. My support is here for them throughout all phases of their illness.

What is the most rewarding part of my Job?

The most rewarding part of my job is to provide support and reassurance to my patients from initial diagnosis to completion of treatment and through into remission. My job can only be achieved by working as  part of a multi disciplinary team and I find it very satisfying working alongside such a dedicated and caring group of professionals.

The patients often have confusion and fear regarding their diagnosis of cancer. It is gratifying to support them to allay these fears and make sure they are fully aware of all aspects of their diagnosis and treatment.

My workload and the needs of the Haematology unit

Over the period I have been working in the unit (approximately 6 years) the workload has grown significantly to the extent that I now find it difficult to complete all of the tasks demanded of me in a timely fashion. Fortunately the Cancer Care and Haematology fund  agreed to pay for an extra Haematology nurse post and I have recently been joined by Cathy Adkins. The charity saw this as a great opportunity to support and enhance the service and were happy to fund the post. The provision of an additional nurse has enabled us to provide a better quality service to all our patients.”


Written by on 11.02.17

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