LOOKING after cancer patients must be one of the hardest jobs in nursing.
However, after 34 years of caring for cancer patients at Sheffield’s Weston Park Hospital, matron Sue Shepley knows what it is important.
“For many people the hardest thing is the total loss of control,” she says. “You are a company director and then, all of a sudden, you are in hospital being treated for cancer.
“You are facing a complete change.
“It’s how people cope with that, and our job is to make life as normal as possible.
“So we encourage people to get dressed each day, do things they would normally do.”
As the hospital’s inpatient matron, Sue is personally responsible for 147 nurses and 84 patients at a time.
“I’ve been a nurse since 1975 and working at Weston Park since 1978 - I’m part of the structure here,” the 56-year-old says.
“Over that time, the treatment of cancer has really changed.
“Most people used to be admitted as inpatients, but now 70 per cent are outpatients.
“It’s a brilliant field to be in because treatments, survival rates and quality of life is improving all the time.
“You get patients who are so poorly, you think they won’t survive, but then you meet them again a couple of years later and they are completely recovered.”
Sue, a mum-of-three and grandmother-of-three lives in Holmesfield, north Derbyshire, with husband Dick, 62, where they also run a wedding business and cider press.
She grew up in Miller’s Dale in the Peak District, moving to London to train at St Thomas’ Hospital before returning to work in Sheffield after she married.
She says: “Things have changed a lot since I trained.
“We trained on the job and weren’t allowed out until we knew all about basic things like sterilisation.
“We were taught so even in the Sahara desert you would know how to make things sterile.
“I think now, a lot of that has gone. People have lost the fundamentals, because they have never been taught it.”
But she adds: “I am proud of nursing as a profession.
“I enjoy looking after people. It is the simple things, like making sure someone is able to get to sleep at night, or finding them something they can face eating when they are feeling terrible.”
n Community nursing: see The Star tomorrow.