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How do I become ... a haematology nurse specialist?

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We talk to Aldine Thomas, a clinical nurse specialist in haemoglobinopathies, about why she loves her job

What jobs and experiences have led you to your present job?

“I worked for 2 years on a haematology oncology ward in a district general hospital. Then I worked for a year as a junior sister working with inpatients with sickle cell and thalassaemia. I also have a varied career as a nurse working in A&E, and with patients in medicine, general, respiratory, gastro intestinal, and Infection and Immunity.”

What qualifications did you need for your position?

I am a registered nurse and I’ve studied:

  • A38 Haemoglobinopathies level 3
  • N08 Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia level 2
  • Genetic Counselling level 2
  • Teaching and Assessing in Clinical Practice

How could a student obtain the necessary experience?

“Work on an acute medical ward to gain experience of caring for an unwell patient and gain specialist experience on a haematology ward. Also, do specialist courses to broaden and further develop underpinning theoretical knowledge.”

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What do you do in your day-to-day role?

“My client group is people over 16 with sickle cell and thalassaemia, working on a daily basis with Specialist Registrars and Haematology Consultants and nursing teams. Every day I conduct a ward round of in patients with Consultant, Specialist Registrar or alone and review patients in Accident and Emergency, and the haematology day unit. I spend a lot of time liasing with other members of the multidisciplinary team. I also conduct nurse-led clinics, educate junior doctors and nurses and write protocols and conduct my own research.”

What skills are most important for your job?

“Experience, patience and empathy!”

What is your favourite part of your job?

“It is an autonomous role, I have known my patients for a long time and meet new people who have transitioned from the children’s service, and attend A&E as emergency.”

What advice would you give someone who wanted to do this role?

“Ensure you have a good nursing background, that you are aware of how to deal with an unwell patient and when to escalate to members of the multidisciplinary team. And know what services are available, who they are and how to contact them.”

Aldine Thomas works as a clinical nurse specialist haemoglobinopathies for Royal London Hospital, Barts and The London NHS Trust.

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