Sarah Orr - Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) 

Sarah qualified as nurse more than 30 years ago. Having had a diverse career, she now leads the clinical nurse specialist (CNS) team for head and neck cancer.

Sarah Orr Nurse

"The CNS plays a key role in the care of cancer patients at every stage of their pathway."

Sarah said: “The CNS plays a key role in the care of cancer patients at every stage of their pathway. We are there to help patients cope with diagnosis, aid them in making the right treatment choices for themselves, and then we are there to support them throughout their treatment journey. We take an active part in the multidisciplinary team meeting (MDTM) and speak as an advocate for patients.

Head and neck cancer patients require complicated care. Treatment for this type of cancer can have profound and life changing side effects for the patient, both in terms of function and cosmetically. We are here to support the families in coming to terms with these changes and encourage patients in their own self-management”.

As the lead for the CNS team, Sarah’s workload is divided between being a clinical nurse and a manager. She explains: “Part of my job involves looking after a case load of patients, which is very important to me.

The other side of the job involves providing leadership to the CNS team and giving them the confidence they need to take on their role. This means organising training for them and aiding their career progression. I am there to encourage them in being proactive in attending conferences, making presentations and conducting clinical audits.”

“Kindness” is one of the UCLH values that we always hear about, but in our team this value is realised every day”.

Although being a lead CNS can be incredibly challenging, the role has its rewards. Sarah said: “I love it. I love the complexity of this type of care and overcoming the challenges that this type of cancer poses. I get to work with a great bunch of people. I feel that the role of the CNS is well supported at all levels of UCLH and this gives us the confidence to deliver such a high standard of care.

There is a willingness to do things differently if it is in the interest of the patient. You can have ideas here and people will listen. This creates a really dynamic environment. “Kindness” is one of the UCLH values that we always hear about, but in our team this value is realised every day”.

As a senior nurse, Sarah has seen many changes in nursing across the span of her career, but she thinks the future looks bright for the CNSs of the future. She explains: “Traditionally the CNS role has lacked a structured pathway for career progression. At UCLH though, this is a role which is recognised and being developed. We want to ensure that our nurses are provided with the support and advancement that they might be looking for”.