Nadia Freri, Paediatric Staff Nurse

I am one of 30 nurses who work three to four 12-hour shifts a week on McElwain Ward, in the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity-funded Oak Centre for Children and Young People. Here, we look after inpatients between the ages of one to 15. Some stay with us for months at a time, and most will be having chemotherapy, radiotherapy or stem cell transplants. 

I can't think of another job that would be as rewarding as mine. I joined The Royal Marsden four years ago as i'd heard so many good things about the patient care. Every day, my colleague's and I make a difference to children's lives, and now I couldn't imagine working anywhere else.

A special relationship

One of the best things about working with children is that they are so resilient; they can be very ill and then be running around the ward a few hours later. I also love the way the children will tell you exactly how it is, and don't have the capacity to feel sorry for themselves. They quickly realise that i'm here to make them feel better, and that makes for a really special relationship. Of course, it can be difficult at times, and the Trust's psychology team holds regular meetings with ward staff to offer us support.

If I am working a day shift, I start at 8am and will be one of seven nurses on duty, and each of us will be allocated three patients to look after. We start the day with a handover from the night nurses. They brief us on each patient and how their night was, which helps me plan my day, and update us on any additional needs the patients have.

I administer treatment according to each patient's individual schedule - there are no drugs rounds like you would see on an adult ward. Everything we do is bespoke for the children's needs, and the medication can vary from chemotherapy to anti-sickness drugs. I take observations at regular intervals, usually every four hours, which involves taking my patients' temperature, repsiratory rate, blood pressure, and pulse rate. I sometimes have to carry out observations on patients every 15 minutes if they're seriosuly ill. I keep a calm head as it is what I am trained to do, and I know if I ever need help there will be someone at my side immediately.

The Value of Play

If I feel one of my patients needs extra support, I liaise with the play specialists, who are also funded by the Charity, thanks to a grant from the Chancellor of the Exchequer using LIBOR funds. The play specialists use things like games, activities, and puzzles to distract the young patients, or prepare them for the procedure I need to carry out.

We have monthly team meetings to discuss how we can improve our ways of working. I like the fact that everyone has a voice and can make a valid contribution. 

There are so many magical parts of my job, but seeing a child who has been in isolation for weeks due to their treatment come out and be able to go home is quite something

Nadia Freri