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Girdlers' Medallion Scholar, Rachael Crayton's Blog Series

We are very excited that the Foundation's most recent recipient of the Girdlers' Medallion, Rachael Crayton has decided to write a blog about her experiences during her scholarship and the work she is producing. 

Read the first part of her blog series below and look out for future additions coming soon: 

What happens next? 

Last year I was awarded a Florence Nightingale Travel Scholarship after submitting a proposal to visit America to explore cancer survivorship. After the initial whoops and screams at receiving an email at work stating that I was successful, it has taken its time to sink in. What has taken the longest amount of time to realise is the enormity of this award. Standing on top of New York's Rockefeller Centre and attending the Girdlers Award ceremony have both finally helped to bring it home. Now one month following my return to the UK I think the most exciting bit is what happens next. As nurses we go about our daily work with patients at the centre of everything we do. I am incredibly passionate about cancer care and moving a service forward is just part of my role. 

In early 2014 I became part of an innovative, effective but simple way of supporting patients through and beyond cancer. Over the past few years this team of experienced oncology nurses has had some great feedback from patients and they have written some success stories up as case reports which deliver poignant messages and give us an opportunity to demonstrate the work we do. 

The simplicity of this idea is that we help patients over the phone to explore their concerns. It gives them a non-judgemental, private environment to discuss what is important to them. Reducing concerns has the benefit of reducing some of the distress and chaos that a cancer diagnosis can bring. This could be something as straight forward as "where can I find a support group?" to something as difficult to answer as "am I going to die?” I have realised that oncology nurses are in a great position professionally to deliver this service as it is in our nature to support, care and educate our patients. 

Recently our patient numbers have increased dramatically due to the rising profile of this unique service. This increase in numbers is fantastic news for a small team like ours; we are supporting more people than ever before. It is great to see the service we offer patients growing and improving as we continue to build the service around the patient. But there are still challenges. As the scope of what we do is so incredibly broad it can be difficult to explain clearly what we do and why our work is so important. We also have the opportunity to build on the support we offer and go further while finding out what matters most to patients. 

This is the core of what my work is about. The team is now busier than ever before and while I return to my desk, turn off the out of office and get back to work, I'm feeling incredibly inspired. I now have a new network in the UK and USA with experts in cancer survivorship and my manager wants to hear all about it. With so many ideas down on paper I've needed this month, a holiday and a meeting with my fabulous mentor to help me to focus on what next. On the lead up to the award ceremony I had a plan of action and started to book meetings with those that need to hear about this first. 

So let the hard work commence…

Click here for part II, part III and part IV!