Band 5 nurse - Sarah Lea 

Band 5 nurse Sarah Lea says she has the perfect work-work balance: half her time is steeped in clinical PHD research, university life and academia and the remainder is spent as a hands-on nurse caring for teenage cancer patients. It’s a combination that works well on many levels.

“I genuinely look forward to every nursing shift and I find research exciting too – they both complement each other”.

“I feel really fortunate that I have a mixed working week. I genuinely look forward to every nursing shift and I find research exciting too – they both complement each other. Research has the potential to influence national policy and ultimately improve the patient experience on a large scale. Working in research means I read lots of articles, policies and guidelines related to my field of nursing which I think benefits my patients and the care I give. I meet nurses from other parts of the country, observe different models of care and it broadens horizons.”

Sarah is an example of just the kind of young professional the Centre for Nurse and Midwife Led Research is hoping to attract: people on the front-line who are keen to seek out the answers to questions that affect them and their patients. To put research at the centre of clinical practice.

“It helps us be the best we can be”

The question that is uppermost in her mind is: do specialist cancer services for teenagers and young adults ‘add value’ by making a real difference to their care and experience? Sarah is receiving Government funding to observe services provided at other hospitals across the UK and talk to staff and patients about their experiences, as part of a wider national research programme.

“At UCLH I see young patients being offered a lot of support, fun and distraction therapies and they can chat with others of the same age. There seems to be a sense of solidarity. It is easy to become blinkered and feel that every hospital offers the same, but they don’t. In a district hospital elsewhere in the country a teenage patient can be in a ward next to a 70 year old man suffering from prostate cancer on one side and a 50 year old woman with breast cancer on the other.”

She wants to find out what kind of impact this has on their care. PHD research offers independence and flexibility, nursing relies on team work.

“It is a perfect balance. I love nursing and research provides the evidence for best practice. It helps us be the best we can be.”


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