Susan Paskar’s work as a nurse has taken her around the globe, but in our latest blog she explains how she’s now starting a new role as a Advanced Clinical Practitioner.
I’m just starting a new role alongside my pharmacist colleague Jenny Allen, as the Trust’s first Haematology Advanced Clinical Practitioners (ACPs). In the job we will support our Consultants across the hospital sites, managing the care of patients with blood cancers, (such as Lymphoma, leukemia, and myeloma) and other blood disorders.
Advanced Clinical Practitioners already work in other areas of the organisation, but we believe these are the first of their kind in the North East.
I’ve been a qualified nurse since 1997, after finishing training in Leeds but I’ve accidentally had a very interesting and varied career already. I worked in Los Angeles for 11 years in a variety of hospitals, including the famous Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, and City of Hope as a Transplant coordinator.
I came to Newcastle in 2011 and continued to work as a Bone Marrow Transplant Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care but in 2017 I took the opportunity to apply for a Haematology post here at North Tyneside General Hospital.
When I started my nurse training over 25 years ago, I was repeatedly told it’s a job where you never stop learning and this is so true. I qualified from the University of Leeds with a Diploma of Higher Education, but I have subsequently taken opportunities to complete my Nursing Studies BSc, whilst I was living in California and through Northumbria University my MSc and Non-Medical Prescribing qualification. I am by no means a natural academic, so if I can do it, I believe anyone can!
As a team, our biggest challenge at the moment is caring for our patients while greatly reducing our face-to-face contact during the pandemic. We normally gain a lot of additional information about patients when they are sat in front of us, from non-verbal cues to assessing their mood and mental health and building relationships with their carers and family who inevitably form part of the plan as we care for our patients.
As much as I love electronics and smart devices, the majority of our patients are not ready to embrace virtual consultations yet, so we have mostly used the telephone to communicate with those who could be managed remotely.
The exciting part about adding Advanced Clinical Practitioner roles to our specialty is that we have a great mix with Jenny as a pharmacist and me with a nursing background. We will be both learning new extended skills so we can provide a more robust service to our patients and expanding the numbers of patients we are able to see in clinics.
In Haematology we tend to have patients for many months or years, so we enjoy the privilege of knowing our patients and their families well. Sadly, Covid19 has changed a lot of this. We would now have trouble recognising our recent patients without their facemasks.
We have also greatly reduced the number of family members we meet face to face, and I know those ‘difficult’ conversations we sometimes need to have with patients and family members are always going to be much harder over the phone, or with a person, we have not been able to get to know in person.
The hardest part of this year professionally is how unnatural it feels to comfort a grieving relative, or patient when they have been given bad news, using words alone. I look forward to a time when it becomes the norm again to hold a hand or offer a much-needed hug, at one of the most devastating times in a person’s life.