Beating bowel cancer together

A day in the life of… a Bowel Screening Centre Manager

Audrey Irvine is the Operational Screening Services Manager at the NHS Bowel Screening Centre in Dundee. As part of the second anniversary of the launch of a new screening test in Scotland, the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) in Scotland, Audrey shares with us a typical day in the ‘office’.

In the morning I...

At 6am I drag myself out of bed, walk the dog, have a hot shower and think about ‘embracing the day’. I’ll have granola and yoghurt for breakfast, put together my lunch, chuck some bits and pieces in the slow cooker (and hope for the best later on), and make sure the kids are up and out the door for school and college.

I’m responsible for…

I’m in charge of the day to day operation of the NHS Bowel Screening Programme from the screening centre in Dundee. We have a fantastic team of trained helpline staff who answer calls and queries from participants of the screening programme all over Scotland. We also have a screening laboratory where automated analysers carry out the testing of all the returned kits.

My job is a real privilege. It’s an important screening service that saves lives and makes a difference.

I got my job…

I started my journey with the screening programme in 2000 as an screening officer taking calls as part of the initial pilot study. I’ve stayed with the programme since then albeit in different roles and capacities as I have progressed through my career. I took up the Screening Service Manager role in 2017, just as the new screening test, the Faecal Immunochemical Test (FIT), was about to roll out.

I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of the bowel screening family from the very beginning and watching it develop and improve as new testing technologies are introduced.

My day…

I tend to get to work at around 8.30am. I’ll say ‘Hi’ to the team, grab a coffee and go through some emails and prioritise work for the day.

If there is a team meeting with staff then this a good opportunity for them to share experiences that they’ve had on the helpline and learn from each other. If I have any reports to write, I like to do this before lunch. I always feel more productive in the morning and I take advantage of that. I stop for lunch around 1pm, usually a chicken salad or a nice soup.

The afternoon will be fueled by coffee and can involve compiling screening uptake data for Health Boards, attending national meetings, reports to compile or read, and write response letters to participants. I head home at 5pm.

My most memorable work moment…

Back in 2005 it was announced after the second round of the pilot study that the National Bowel Screening Programme for Scotland would roll out in 2007 with all health boards to join the programme by end of 2009. That was a great milestone moment for the team and the beginning of a lot of hard work to get the programme ready to expand.

More recently in 2017 the launch of FIT when Scotland became the first country in the UK to introduce the new, improved screening test.

We get some really lovely feedback and letters into the centre from participants who have done the test and have had their cancer diagnosed early and want to thank us. It’s always a powerful reminder of how the programme is positively affecting lives.

The best part of my job…

The best part of my job is knowing that I’m part of a programme that is saving lives. Since the roll out of FIT in 2017, we’ve watched how successful that has been and more people than before are taking up the opportunity for screening, which is fantastic.

The worst part of my job…

It’s very cliché but there is no worst part to my job. I’m extremely fortunate to be in a job that I really enjoy and a role that I am very proud of. I have a supportive husband and family who make all aspects of my life fun-filled. When you have that, you can’t help but have a positive outlook on life and I take that with me to work each day.

Coming into work to a focused, hardworking, fun group of staff is not hard work at all. It really is a team effort and every day can have its different challenges and that’s what makes it interesting.

In the evening I…

I go the gym after work most evenings. During the lighter nights I like to fit in outdoor rock climbing with friends at least once a week. Cooking dinner usually consists of peeking inside the slow cooker and hoping that the bits and bobs that got threw in there in the morning have somehow created a Gordon Ramsay masterpiece. We’ll watch a little bit of TV. I particularly like anything to do with David Attenborough. I’m generally goosed by 10.30pm and it's lights out.

My Plan B…

Me and my husband love watching Wheeler Dealers and I always say that I’d be great as a mechanic, tinkering about on cars and doing up old classics, or an Everest tour guide!


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