Celebrating our nurses and midwives: Sara's story
Sara Faithfull became a cancer nurse to look after people living with cancer, to manage their treatment, and to support survivors beyond their diagnoses. This is her story.
"Nursing runs in my family and my mum worked as an adult nurse at the local hospital, where I volunteered during the summer holidays. It was there that it suddenly clicked that nursing was the career for me and it could open the door to so many opportunities.
"I qualified as a nurse in the early 80s and started working in general nursing and neurology, but soon realised that if I wanted to put evidence into practice and improve patient care and support, I needed a degree. At the time, I also knew that I wanted to specialise in cancer nursing, to look after people living with cancer, providing them with treatment, as well as supporting their families. To do both, I went on to study part-time for a bachelors in nursing science, at the University of Surrey.
"During my degree, I worked with people in need of neurological care, suffering with brain tumours, at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton. My role developed, and I went on to work in radiotherapy with men receiving prostate cancer treatment. Over the next 20 years I worked with a truly amazing team and met some incredibly brave people with cancer. This is what makes cancer nursing so unique; you get to see the best in people and can make such a difference to someone’s experience of treatment.
"For 10 years I was a member of the European Oncology Nursing Society board, working with them to support nurses across Europe, helping to influence policy, working with patients and specialist groups, and developing educational guidance and resources. A highlight during this time was becoming President (2007-2009). The whole experience was amazing, and I learned so much about nursing across Europe.
"I hope my work will lead the way to integrating cancer treatment, side effect management and rehabilitation education into nursing curriculums. Most importantly, we must continue to fight for the voices of nurses to be heard."
"I’ve always enjoyed academia and throughout my career I’ve combined practice as a nurse, with research into clinical issues. I was the recipient of a Cancer Research UK fellowship, allowing me to complete a PhD, investigating radiotherapy and supportive care. My research explored how we can reduce side effects of radiotherapy treatment, through the testing of nursing interventions.
"With my love of research, I decided to move into an academic role to specialise further in health promotion and rehabilitation for cancer patients. This area has great potential, as people’s fitness and lifestyle can make a big difference to the side effects they experience and their ability to recover from cancer treatment.
"As a Professor of Cancer Nursing Practice at the University of Surrey, I work with the National Cancer Research Institute, leading the teams investigating late treatment consequences of cancer and supporting the development of interdisciplinary research. At Surrey, I get to invent and test solutions for helping people recover from cancer, sharing my expertise with allied health professionals, biological scientists, doctors, engineers and physicists.
"I also educate and support clinical practice interns, helping them get tasters of research, and co-ordinating funding applications, through the Health Education England and National Institute for Health Research Integrated Clinical Academic Programme. In addition, I have hands-on involvement in practice, working with Prostate Cancer UK, both as a trustee and supervisor for students.
"I hope my work will lead the way to integrating cancer treatment, side effect management and rehabilitation education into nursing curriculums across the UK. I also want to see more evidence-based health promotion and care being used across all settings. And most importantly, we must continue to fight for the voices of nurses to be heard."