Dr Emma Pennery explains why she spends some of her time answering calls on Breast Cancer Care's helpline, and the benefits of being a self-confessed 'anorak'
Working as the clinical director for the UK's leading breast cancer support charity means there's never a "typical" day in the office – I can plan, but with such a varied role I need to be flexible. It's this variety that attracted me to the voluntary sector and Breast Cancer Care, having previously worked as a specialist breast care nurse in the NHS for 15 years.
I'm an early riser and leave my house in Kent before 6:30am. I drive half an hour to the station then get the train to the Breast Cancer Care offices in Southwark, London. On the packed train I absorb myself in my Kindle.
I arrive at my desk by 7:45am having picked up a white Americano and a banana en route. As a morning person leading a team of 10 other nurses specialising in breast cancer, the relative quiet of the first hour is great for me to read and respond to emails or review unscheduled work, such as a Nice appraisal on a new breast cancer drug.
An early start is also handy for managing projects where there's a time difference – I'm currently preparing for an international keynote address I'm giving at the 14th Australian National Breast Care Nurses Conference in Melbourne early next year.
At around 9:30am I'll read the press team's daily news summary, noting any possible stories I might need to respond to as on-call clinical spokesperson. On a typical day, particularly in the lead up to October's Breast Cancer Awareness Month, I might have a 30-minute telephone interview with a journalist about the latest treatment developments, the breast screening debate or lifestyle risk factors.
I think one of my strengths, honed by working as a nurse my whole career and as a self-confessed science "anorak", is being able to translate complicated medical jargon into language everybody can understand. I also use this skill when I present sessions on drug treatments at our client information sessions or Younger Women's Forums.
Roughly once a week I spend a morning answering calls on our free helpline (0808 800 6000). It's really important for me to remain "on the shop floor". I started sessional work on the helpline in 2004 and it's a part of my job I really enjoy, especially since I'm not in direct clinical practice any more.
Being able to answer people's questions and give them the time they need is fulfilling in itself, but the insight I gain also means I can confidently advise the senior management team on how our other support and information services can adequately meet the needs we hear about through the phone lines.
In my capacity as member of the senior management team I might spend the remainder of the morning working on the charity's three-year plans or income and expenditure reports, even more important during these challenging financial times.
I usually eat my soup or salad while working at my desk. My team are responsible for ensuring the clinical accuracy and quality of everything Breast Cancer Care says and does – something we take very seriously and which is central to our aim to help people with breast cancer make informed choices.
We're accredited under the Department of Health's information standard so a typical afternoon might involve signing off an information package on, for example, breast reconstruction or a new targeted therapy, which is then available via our website and print publications and informs the support offered on our Helpline and our communications line.
Last year nearly two million people came to the website and we sent out more than a million publications, so this robust process is vital.
During the afternoon I might take a call from the digital engagement team asking me to provide clarity if a clinical issue raised on our forums is causing people concern. Similarly, with the rise of social media there might be a query from Twitter or Facebook that needs a clinical perspective.
I try to leave the office between 5pm and 5:30pm and arrive home by about 7pm, in time to prepare dinner and catch up with my husband, each of us with a much loved and pampered cat – either Gollum or Pixie – cuddled up on our lap. If I have time I'll watch something innocuous on the television then head to bed hoping my train will be on time in the morning.
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Read the complete post at http://www.guardian.co.uk/healthcare-network/2012/aug/31/clinical-director-breast-cancer-care
Aug 31 2012, 03:30 AM
Healthcare Network | guardian.co.uk
Filed under: health, Healthcare Network, Guardian Professional, Features, Policy, Breast Cancer, Work practices, Cancer, Public sector careers, Society, Voluntary sector, Charities