Beating bowel cancer together

This International Nurses Day, Dr Claire Taylor MBE reflects on the impact of coronavirus on colorectal cancer nurses

Dr Claire Taylor MBE, Macmillan Nurse Consultant in Colorectal Cancer at the London North West University Healthcare NHS Trust and Chair of the National Colorectal Cancer Nurses Network (NCCNN) shares with us her reflections on the impact of coronavirus on colorectal cancer nurses.

Early March seems so far away now; so much has changed since we first heard of the rapid rise in cases of COVID-19 here in the UK and Boris announced that we were going into lockdown.

As colorectal cancer nurses each of us will have had quite different experiences to share over the last eight weeks depending on how acutely COVID-19 affected us personally, the work we do and our Trust as a whole. I certainly think it has been the most challenging chapter in my thirty year plus career as a nurse.

Working in cancer care during this crisis has been incredibly difficult as our diagnostic and surgical services were suddenly suspended, we tried to rationalise oncological treatments whilst also supporting often scared and bewildered patients.

We are perhaps now emerging from the haze and entering a new phase where each day there is less anxiety and a little more predictability. As we adjust to this ‘new normal’,  we are learning new skills, developing innovative ways of working and starting to accept that there is still much uncertainty about the resumption of ‘usual care’ and even the future of our services.

All of this has an impact on us as nurses emotionally. We’ve all had to make sacrifices to do the work we do, manage unprecedented changes in our home life and some of us will be grieving the loss of loved ones. Just as we advise our patients on emotional self-care and signpost them to some of the helpful resources available we must also care for ourselves.

Hopefully, this crisis situation has created opportunities for reinvention and more effective working which would not have been possible in ordinary times. I also think it has shown many of the wider members of our teams, Trust and society, the vital role we play as colorectal cancer nurses.

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