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The Royal Marsden

Why specialist education is the key to cancer care

Studying at The Royal Marsden School can advance both your career and the way that cancer is treated, here in the UK and further afield

The Royal Marsden School is the UK’s only dedicated provider of cancer education leading to academic qualifications. So, let’s take a look at what that really means – for you, your patients and cancer care as a whole. 

In a nutshell, our students are taught by clinical specialists and research experts working at the leading edge of cancer care at The Royal Marsden. This means you get access to lecturer practitioners and academic staff who are actively involved in clinical practice. And because we work so closely with these experts, we’re able to constantly update and develop our courses to reflect what’s happening within those fields.

Specialist education and training 

Chris McNamara, course leader and a specialist in advances in cancer care, says, ‘One of the strengths of having the School on site is that we’re fully integrated with The Royal Marsden. A lot of the clinical experts there teach our modules, so we stay current and up-to-date. Our curriculum stays relevant and contemporary, so none of our students – or their patients – get left behind.’

The Royal Marsden is also a world-leading clinical research centre. Janet Baker, lecturer practitioner specialising in haemato-oncology and stem cell transplant, says, ‘Many treatments are still in clinical trials, so we use our connection to the hospital to teach students about specific research  and innovative therapies’

Many students are unfamiliar with novel treatments and models of care , so being exposed to this teaching in the classroom helps to improve their understanding and enables them to apply theory to practice, therefore enhancing the care they provide for patients.’ 

One exciting new area of research is immunotherapy; modifying a patient’s own T-cells to recognise and eliminate specific cancer cells, known as CAR-T therapy. ‘Immunotherapy and Stem cell transplant are very fast changing areas of practice, however we are able to incorporate new concepts and evidence based nursing and medicine into existing modules in order that these reflect contemporary practice ,’ says Janet. ‘Some of the teaching staff (myself included)  have a current clinical role, but also have extensive prior clinical experience, and so we have an awareness and understanding of what is happening in specific fields, and can share that knowledge with students.


Some of the teaching staff have a current clinical role, but also have extensive prior clinical experience, and so we have an awareness and understanding of what is happening in specific fields, and can share that knowledge with

Janet Baker

Improving patient care

Patient care is central to everything we do at the School. Janet says, ‘Our goal is improving patient experience and outcomes. We’re not just teaching abstract academic theories or focusing on treatment, but we want students to look at the bigger picture. When they graduate, they will have a totally holistic approach to patient care.’

Our commitment to patient outcomes was recognised in 2015 when Cally Palmer, chief executive of The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, was named National Cancer Director for NHS England. Her major role is overseeing the National Cancer Implementation Plan, aimed at improving cancer prevention, earlier diagnosis, investment in technology, support for those living with and beyond cancer, and enhancing the patient experience. 

‘We have always aimed to incorporate those goals into our modules,’ says Chris. ‘The more our students know, the better able they are to support patients through all the stages of their cancer pathway, from diagnosis to long-term survival. It’s not just doing the modules, but equipping them with the skills, confidence and knowledge they need for the rest of their career.’

Skills beyond the classroom

In addition to teaching students about current clinical practice, we provide practical training in areas like communication and leadership. Around 50% of the complaints the NHS receives from patients are about communication, so it’s a vital skill to learn. ‘Students always say that communication is really important, but patients say this is not always demonstrated consistently’ says Chris. ‘You can have all the knowledge and education in the world, but you need to be able to communicate with your patients.’ 

Leadership training at the School is also helping to create the cancer leaders of the future. Chris says, ‘As your career progresses, you may be in a position to make, or influence, changes in an organisation’s services to help meet patient needs. So your training shouldn’t just be relevant in the classroom – once you’ve finished all your studying, the skills and knowledge you’ve learnt should have a wider impact on your career.’ 

Because our students include health and social care professionals from a number of different organisations – even from different countries – you’ll be exposed to different roles, new ideas and different ways of working, too. Janet says, ‘Many students are not aware of how their career could progress, so we also look at individual role development and career development.’

We believe the future of cancer care is not just about developing new treatments and therapies, but training today’s nurses and clinicians to be able to deliver that care for years to come. If you want to make difference to your future – and that of your patients – take a look at our latest courses and study days. 

Why specialist education is the key to cancer care | The Royal Marsden School
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