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Blog: Sarah Bache the new cancer expert blogger for Nursing in Practice

More than 40 years ago Ann Nash, one of the very first Macmillan nurses said: 'The future was uncertain but the opportunity was too exciting to miss'. This quote really resonated with me as it certainly feels extremely relevant to nursing today.

I am now going to blog for Nursing In Practice, covering various topics relevant to community nursing and looking at issues that affect nurses day to day. But first, here is a bit about me.

I have been a nurse since 1995, assuming several roles within district nursing and hospice care before becoming a Macmillan community specialist nurse and by the time I arrived in my current role as a Macmillan nurse consultant I could say I knew firsthand the challenges, opportunities and excitements that come from being a nurse.

I decided that being a nurse was the career for me for personal reasons; following my dad being diagnosed with cancer and after seeing the invaluable work of a family friend who as a cancer nurse at the time gave me an insight into the incredible work these professionals do. Years later the impact it had inspired me to take up an opportunity to shadow a Macmillan community nurse during my nurse training, and 20 years later, here I am in the profession.

I can still remember one of my first experiences treating a patient at the end of their life. It was at the start of my training and I was scared, overwhelmed and worried about letting someone down at such a difficult time in their life. But I knew that what mattered was the personal care. I took the time to wash her hair, moisten her mouth and just spend time with her so she didn't feel alone. When the lady I was caring for sadly passed away it was extremely sad, but I was proud I had been able to help her pass in a dignified way.

In my current role at the John Taylors Hospice in Birmingham I usually start the day with a morning meeting where we allocate patients to the nurses on duty at the hospice; we'll look at referrals and make phone calls to families and professionals. Typically we do three to four patients visits a day which can take a couple of hours each as we provide physical and emotional support to our patients and their family. Sometimes we do hospital visits to discuss more complex cases. I'll then type up my notes and also be ready to answer ad hoc calls throughout the day.  

Other than daily duties, no two days are the same. I work with a team of twelve Macmillan nurses. Some of these nurses are new to their post so I often give support and advise them on how to cope with challenging tasks and situations that come up. My advice to them, and this goes for anyone in nursing, is not to give up, you learn to deal with tough situations through time and experience.

As more and more people are living with cancer I think it's important for people to understand the role of the cancer nurse specialist. There is a misconception that once patients reach the palliative stage that end of life care nurses will take over, and sometimes I think that's unfair. I don't see my role as solely providing medical care for patients at the end of life, but I see it as giving patients the best care possible for living with cancer, and that's something I feel passionate about. I think everyone involved in end of life care needs to work together so we can achieve a better understanding of how to give practical and emotional support for end of life patients and their families.

When you say you are a Macmillan nurse people think about knowledge, respect, and the support we provide which is something I am particularly proud of.

You can find out more about 40 years of Macmillan professionals on the website: