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The Royal Marsden School

Aisling Grant

Junior Sister, haematology-oncology ward, The Royal Marsden

Aisling Grant is a Junior Sister of a haematology-oncology ward at The Royal Marsden. She trained as a nurse in Ireland and worked in Australia, but always had one eye set on The Royal Marsden, and her dream finally came true in 2016 when she was in the midst of planning her wedding.

“I trained in Ireland and worked as a surgical nurse in Dublin for two years before moving to Australia. I joined a nursing agency and explored all the different sides of nursing. As a general nurse, I was able to see the many faces of nursing - an opportunity I never had in my previous job. Hungry for experience, I threw myself into the unknown! I wanted to explore areas like midwifery, mental health, community nursing, aged care and oncology. I gained some experience with haemato-oncology at a hospital in Perth and then I realised this was the kind of nurse I wanted to be. After another year, I moved back home and I was planning to get married and move to London. A week before my wedding, I was invited for an interview at The Royal Marsden, a place I had always hoped to work for at some point in my career. Despite the growing list of a million things to organise for our big day, I was thrilled to find out I was successful and got the job!

“The new chapter of my journey began in 2016, when I joined The Royal Marsden Nurses Rotation Programme, a complex and challenging training programme that allowed me to gain the knowledge of cancer care that was essential in my nursing practice, while completing a Postgraduate Certificate in Cancer Care.”

“Working and studying simultaneously may seem overwhelming at first, but I was only getting started and we were supported at every step of the way. I applied for another course with The Royal Marsden School, which was right at the doorstep of The Royal Marsden offering amazing and prestigious cancer education. I decided to study Foundations in Cancer Practice, which cemented my drive to be an oncology nurse. I also completed the Sciences in Cancer Care module to find out more about variety of treatments available to cancer patients and cancer research. I was growing my confidence and understanding the complexity of nursing care. I knew this was essential to become excellent cancer nurse and best support my patients.

“Throughout, the lecturers and ward managers were supportive, motivating me to excel in both theory and practice. My first placement was a haematology-oncology ward, I was very curious how this placement would compare with my experience in Australia and I loved it from the beginning! I thrived in the fast-paced environment of the ward where we cared for patients who received chemotherapy, stem cell transplants, and had neutropenic sepsis. Working beside Janet Baker, Apheresis Nurse Specialist at The Royal Marsden in Sutton, in the unit and having her as lecturer for my Haemato-oncology module was so inspiring! Through the years she continues to be true ‘nurspiration’ with her knowledge, attitude, and her enthusiasm - a great colleague to seek advice just about anything.

“Completing five modules for the rotation course and starting in a new ward every six months was challenging, the rotation would not have been possible without the support of other rotation nurses in the Trust. I would not have got through without the rotation friends I made in the course. We picked each other out in the modules and had instant friendships because of our shared experience. Some of my rotations in the wards crossed over with other rotation nurses and we were able to help swapping shifts approaching assignment deadlines or give advice on what to expect on the next ward! The coursework and placements can be intense at times and knowing that someone is going through the same experience made all the difference. I have made some of my very best friends through the rotation and I will always be grateful for this.

“By the time I finished the Rotation Programme in the haematology-oncology I was Band 5 nurse and I have loved every second of this job! Additionally, I completed training in Advanced Communications to build my confidence as occasionally we have challenging conversations with cancer patients and their families.

“I became Junior Sister of a newly expanded unit where we offer patient care and treatment at home. Taking active part in setting up this project is one of the highlights of my career. To offer a patient an option to spend more time at their home and come in less regularly rather than having a lengthy hospital stay is extremely rewarding for a nurse. I have just been appointed as a Sister in my ward, and I am proud to continue to work on these improvements, and to ensure patients safety in the current challenging situation.

“I hope to return to the School to continue my academic journey. My schedule is busy, I am growing every day as a nurse, and I’m excited to progress in my career as I find there is always more to learn.”