Emma Matthews is Haemato-Oncology Nurse working in oncology MDU in Sheffield, and is also completing a research internship with the National Institute of Health Research.
“I first thought about nursing during my French degree when I met a group of nursing students in halls. Before this I had never considered nursing but hearing tales about their experiences made me think of this career path. Later when I researched nursing in more depth I fell in love with its holistic philosophy and saw how nursing could reconcile my fascination for the human condition with a role where I could make a positive impact in society.
“My research led me to The Royal Marsden when as student in Sheffield I was reading 'C' by John Diamond. I became aware of it as a leading institute in oncology and also for nursing. I was 18 months into my career working in haematology when I discovered the Rotation Programme. It came at a great time for me as I was keen to underpin my practice with more theory.
“I applied for the Rotation Programme at The Royal Marsden School after a set of night shifts when I was working as a staff nurse in haematology in Sheffield. High on post night shift delirium and caffeine I busted out an application just in time for the imminent deadline. It was not a simple decision to move to London, such was my love for Sheffield, but the 18 months I spent at The Royal Marsden impacted my identity as a nurse in a way I wouldn’t have anticipated.
“Academically, studying at level seven instilled a real confidence in recognising that I was able to write at master’s level. The content of the modules encouraged me to go about my practice differently, looking critically at how as nurses we can enhance patients’ hospital and healthcare experiences. For example, exploring how yoga can help with body image or cognitive behavioural therapy can improve hot flushes following chemically induced menopause. This really broadened my psychosocial toolkit, empowering me to holistically address patient’s concerns.
“Clinically, I felt there was a real pride in nursing. On the three wards I rotated around I worked alongside brilliant and passionate nurses: from the staff nurses getting me through night shifts with that camaraderie so unique to nursing, right up to the nurse consultants who were leading research and MDT meetings. As a subscriber to the maxim ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’ it was so valuable to work with nurses who had a real pride in nursing.
“I moved back to Sheffield after completing the Rotation Programme two years ago and have worked in the MDU up here since. However, my experiences from The Royal Marsden have continued to impact my relationship with nursing. I had been given space through the course to develop, articulate and express opinions which led me to think more and more about what it means to be a modern nurse and how we are portrayed in the media. I co-wrote opinion pieces for the RCN Bulletin and Nursing Standard magazine about feminism and nursing with a nurse consultant who shared my appreciation for nursing and also my ‘bugbears' around representation and recognition.
“This same nurse consultant is also proactive in research and sign posted me towards an internship with the National Institute of Health Research. My application was successful, and for the past year I’ve been funded to lead a project exploring how advanced nurse practitioners in new roles negotiate their place in an established medical/nursing hierarchy. Through interviewing these ANPs I was struck by the importance of nurses articulating their worth. Moreover, throughout the pandemic I found that people were often speaking on behalf of nurses, but too few nurses were being given a platform to discuss their expertise and experiences in managing COVID-19.
“Currently I am leading the Humans of Nursing project, along with NHS England’s Nursing Now campaign. It is a place for us to reclaim our narrative and celebrate all the brilliant and diverse people and roles that make up our profession. It was at The Royal Marsden School where I’d first entertained this idea - a blog full of inspirational nurses - so I am looking forward to sharing some of The Royal Marsden nurses’ stories. “