A day in the life: MDU nursing

Find out what it's like to be a Medical Day Unit nurse at The Royal Marsden from one of our current staff members.

Victoria Coulter, Staff Nurse, Medical Day Unit in Chelsea

My morning begins at 8.30am with a handover meeting to find out which patients that day are ready for chemotherapy and to identify any patients that may need an alternative treatment, such as a blood transfusion.

We are not assigned patients so this is the perfect time to make sure we all understand the needs of each individual patient and to ask any questions.

Patients begin to arrive from 9am and can be on the unit receiving treatment for 30 minutes up to 10 hours. Each patient has a TV, internet connection and a phone to keep them occupied but we also encourage them to bring in books or an iPad, as well as a friend or family member to keep them company.

Before starting someone’s treatment I make sure they are fit enough to receive the chemotherapy by checking their bloods, allergies, height and weight, go through side effects and gain their consent. I then cannulate the patient and sit with them during the start of their treatment to make sure it is going through properly without any problems and to answer any questions.

We have up to 10 nurses working on the unit at any one time, and between us we can see up to 60 patients a day.

The best thing about this job is getting to know the patients. Some people have been coming to the hospital for years so you get to know them really well and build up a great rapport.

Everyone deals with their cancer diagnosis differently – some people want to talk about it and tell you all their symptoms but others don’t like to talk.

Once a patient has finished their treatment for the day, I make sure they have an appropriate way of getting home and check that they have all the medications they need. If they have experienced problems eating or drinking then I’ll arrange an appointment with a dietician.

The MDU also provides a cannula service for the hospital as not all staff on the wards are cannulation competent. We also carry out blood transfusions, injections and supportive therapies as well as answering calls from patients at home to offer them advice.

At the end of the shift we get ready for the next day and make sure we have an accurate list of patients who are due in to receive treatment.


We are so lucky to have such a great team in MDU - everyone works really well together and is extremely supportive. It is a lovely place to work.

Victoria Coulter, Staff Nurse, Medical Day Unit in Chelsea