We talk to Karen Sumpter, clinical lead at Prostate Cancer UK, who has been a nurse for 26 years.
Why did you decide to become a nurse?
I joined St John Ambulance as a teenager and did volunteer work in a nursing home as part of this - and I loved it.
Where did you train?
King’s College Hospital.
What was your first job in nursing?
Staff nurse at King’s on a specialist surgical ward: ear nose and throat, maxillofacial, plastics and cardiothoracics.
What is the trait you least like in yourself and why?
I am impatient and like to deliver on time - I know this drives others mad.
From whom have you learnt the most in your nursing career and why?
Susan Scott and Sara Lister for facilitating the first leadership course I did as a new ward manager - I learnt so much about myself, which has been invaluable in shaping my career.
Always ask questions if you don’t understand something, and never be frightened to put your opinion forward
What advice would you give someone starting out in the profession?
Listen to your patients and take time to get to know them - make sure they are involved in decisions about their care. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something, and never be frightened to put your opinion forward - healthcare is about team work, everyone’s view is important.
What keeps you awake at night?
Formulating my to-do lists for the next day. I’m a list-aholic.
What do you think is likely to change nursing in the next decade?
The increasing focus on personalised medicine will affect nurses and their practice.
What’s the most satisfying part of your job?
Variety - no two days are the same. I enjoy representing the charity at patient events and conferences, contributing to national press releases, supporting and developing my great team of specialist nurses, and more.
You recently worked on the development of a storyline in EastEnders. How did this happen?
Prostate Cancer UK was approached by the BBC in relation to a prostate cancer storyline, with a request for a clinical expert to give support and advice, to ensure an authentic portrayal.
What kind of support did you give the scriptwriters?
Background information in terms of treatments and side effects; script reviewing; and advice on set environments.
Do you think it’s important that TV shows cover health-related subjects like this?
Definitely! Any opportunity to raise awareness is important, and prime time shows have huge audience figures so there is potential to reach a lot of people.
If you could change one thing in healthcare, what would it be?
I want to see sufficient provision of specialist nurses, with adequate value placed on their role.
What’s your proudest achievement?
Designing and gaining accreditation for a degree-level module in end-of-life care.
If you could spend an hour in someone’s company, who would it be and why?
The actors who play the Carter family in EastEnders to chat more about the storyline I have been involved in and how this has impacted on them.