The Royal Marsden

A day in the life of: Heather Jones, Junior Sister

Heather has been caring for teenagers and young adults in The Royal Marsden’s Teenage Cancer Trust Unit (TCTU) – part of the Oak Centre for Children and Young People (OCCYP) – for nearly eight years.
Heather Jones, Junior Sister at The Royal Marsden

Ever since I was three years old, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. My grandmother was treated at The Royal Marsden, so I grew up hearing what a special place it is.

I successfully applied for the Junior Sister Development Rotation Programme after working my way up from a band 5 staff nurse role to become a senior staff nurse. It’s a new 15-month programme that helps nurses to progress in their careers by bridging the gap between the roles of senior staff nurse and ward sister, enabling us to build experience before taking on more senior roles. Janine Shearing and Rosie Formella, who are also nurses in the OCCYP, are enrolled on the programme, too. All three of us will be working on our usual wards for nine months and then will rotate around McElwain Ward and the children’s Day Care Unit.

Varied role

I work a four-day week, which consists of two dedicated programme days – one for learning and development and one for management – as well as two days on the TCTU.

The learning and development days are quite structured and give me time to complete courses in coaching and enhanced leadership, for example. I also shadow staff in the Children and Young People’s Unit, such as the safeguarding teams or the haematology matron, who I normally wouldn’t have much contact with. The aim is to develop a better understanding of how the department and the hospital operate, because thinking about the bigger picture is important for a more senior position.

My management days, on the other hand, are incredibly varied. Sometimes I am completely office-based, which can involve managing rotas, budgeting, completing incident reports and monitoring mandatory training.

At other times, I’m on the ward supporting the team. For example, I often help new joiners settle in by working shifts alongside them or sign off new skills for junior staff, such as canulation. I’m also there to do things like debriefing when something challenging happens with a patient or managing appraisals and monthly reviews.

Heather Jones preparing medicine

Ward support

Our participation means that the ward sisters for children’s and young people’s services have additional support, as they would usually be responsible for the tasks we do on management days. It’s great that we can ease their workload –particularly during the past year, which has been so challenging. For example, I’ve helped ensure that my ward is on top of the latest restrictions and guidance, and provided extra emotional support to staff, patients and their families.

The team, including the unit sisters and practice educators, have been a great help while I complete the programme. I’m looking forward to the next phase when I’ll have the chance to work on the two other units. It will take me out of my comfort zone so I can learn new skills.

I’m incredibly grateful to The Royal Marsden for providing this new opportunity for senior nurses – it’s wonderful to work somewhere that values career progression for its staff.