Two Macmillan Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialists’ work recognised at special event

Date: 25 May 2023

Karen Hills and Karen Flannery Macmillan CNS News

Two cancer clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) who work for Medway NHS Foundation Trust, recently had their work recognised at a special event organised by the Kent and Medway Cancer Alliance.

Macmillan Metastatic Colorectal Cancer CNS Karen Hills and Macmillan Gynaecology Cancer CNS Karen Flannery were among a handful of CNSs from Trusts across Kent and Medway who were invited to an event, which was held at The Mercure Hotel in Maidstone, to celebrate and recognise the important role CNSs play in supporting cancer patients. As part of the celebrations they were presented with a certificate and gift voucher during an awards ceremony after they were nominated for a recognition award by their line managers.

Karen Hills was nominated for successfully setting up of a new Metastatic Colorectal Service and for showing invaluable knowledge, leadership and collaborative working within the Trust and primary care to support this patient group. The service has received positive patient feedback and recognition from the wider multidisciplinary team.

She said: “It is lovely to have my work as a CNS recognised.

“I worked for the Trust on a surgical ward for 13 and a half years but in 2013 I started to want something a bit different. That’s when I saw an advert on Facebook for a job with the bowel cancer screening team. One of my cousin’s had died from bowel cancer in his early 40s so it was close to my heart and I thought ‘yeah I can do this’. I went for an interview and I got the job.

“As a screening nurse, once you’ve found a cancer you then give the patient to the CNSs and I wanted to be involved with the next stage of the patient’s care. So when a job came up in 2019 with the Colorectal CNS Team I applied. Then last year I applied for the Metastatic Colorectal CNS post which I started in October. 

“I like patient contact and getting to know my patient more. It was that and my family history which attracted me to the CNS role. We get to know our patients well. It’s not just about their illness. You get to know them as a person so you can then support them in all sorts of myriad ways. You get that therapeutic relationship and connection and I think that’s what makes the job special. As a cancer CNS I help to get things done, I’m a shoulder to cry on, an ear at the other end of the phone whether they want to talk or shout or rant and rave, I’m the person who can put them in touch with people if I can’t provide them with what they need. Patients use us as and when they need us. Some people contact us a lot, some people contact us once in a blue moon but no matter what we are always there for them. It’s a very patient-led support service and a very rewarding role as you can help make the patient’s life better and more comfortable during what is a very difficult and uncertain time for them.”

Karen Flannery was nominated for frequently going above and beyond in her role. This was demonstrated in 2022 when she supported a young cancer patient from overseas who was studying in the UK and didn’t have any family living in the country. Karen gained the trust of the patient, showing them care and compassion while they were an inpatient at Medway Maritime Hospital. Sadly, the patient died and Karen wrote and gave a eulogy at a memorial service held within the hospital’s chapel.

She said: “I was very touched to be recognised at the event.

“I remember I had a conversation with a cancer clinical nurse specialist some years ago and I said to them ‘I’d love your job’, and here I am 12 years later doing that person’s job.

“What attracted me to the role was the impact and the difference the team makes to cancer patients. It’s very team oriented and we all have the same goal of wanting the best for the patient.

“Being a CNS is about looking at the patient as a whole, not just as a cancer patient. The emotional impact of cancer is huge on a person and I’m in a privileged position that I to get to know them and their family on a personal level and support them.

“There is lots of evidence that shows that CNSs play an important role in the patient’s cancer journey and that’s because we build a rapport and trust with them so that eventually they feel they can come to us and ask us anything and open up about all sorts of things, even things that are not necessarily related to their diagnosis.

“People think it is a sad role but it’s not at all, because we make such a huge difference to the patient and their relatives. You need to have compassion and empathy - everything needs to come from the heart. Importantly you need to treat people the way you would want to be treated yourself and talk to people on their level because not everyone is the same.”

As well as enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake and networking, guests were treated to therapies such as acupuncture, mindfulness, and Indian head massage. Information around wellbeing and self-care was available from Macmillan Cancer Support colleagues. A small gift was also presented to all CNSs as a token of the alliance’s appreciation for all that they do. The gift was also sent to CNSs who were not at the event.

CNSs are advanced practice nurses whose role involves supporting cancer patients at all stages of treatment, including helping them to understand their treatment options and side effects and providing them information, as well as performing clinical tasks and providing check-ups.

There are more than 74,000 people in Kent and Medway living with and beyond a cancer diagnosis and more than 200 cancer nurse specialists working in NHS trusts across Kent and Medway, supporting people through diagnosis and treatment.

Jayne Black, Chief Executive of Medway NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Here at Medway we have 34 cancer clinical nurse specialists who all work tirelessly to provide continuity of care to our patients who have been diagnosed with a variety of cancers.

“I’d like to say a huge thank you to all of our CNSs for all that they do to help improve the experience of both cancer patients and the multidisciplinary colleagues they work with.”

A full list of all the award winners can be found here.


  • Summary:

    Macmillan Metastatic Colorectal Cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) Karen Hills and Macmillan Gynaecology Cancer CNS Karen Flannery both had their work recognised at a special event to celebrate the important role CNSs play in supporting cancer patients.