Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a scary and confusing time in a person’s life. At NPC, we understand the importance of having someone who our patients can lean on for advice, support and comfort. That’s where the role of a cancer care coordinator comes in. Acting as a direct point of contact for patients with cancer, our cancer care coordinator signposts them to available services, supports them through their journey and answers any questions they might have about their care.

Nicola Brown is NPC’s cancer care coordinator. We sat down with herto find out about her background, how her role supports patients and colleagues and why she loves her job.

Hi Nicola, can you tell us a bit about your background?

I’m originally from the North East, but in the early 2000s, I moved down south to work as a chemotherapy day unit clerk at Guy’s Hospital. My role was very patient-focussed and involved assisting nurses in their duties. From there I moved into a health care assistant role in a new ward that allowed me to get more involved with patients, providing extra assistance where needed.

Unfortunately, I had an accident that resulted in a broken foot. From there, I found it hard to be on my feet all day, so had to consider different options. I eventually moved into a role working on early-phase, Stage II & Stage III trials for lung cancer research before heading back to the North East!

What did you do when you moved home?

I ended up working at Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals in orthopedics which was a bit different to what I’d done in the past. I enjoyed it, but I knew my interests were elsewhere, so I sought out a role working in urology as a data manager for the Urology Research Team. This was a really interesting position that had me dealing with patients who had metastatic and benign cancer as well as functional Urology. After 10 years in that position, they decided to change my job title to study support assistant as that allowed me more input into the nursing side of things. It was a more operational role that involved keeping good clinical practice up to date, managing people and making sure the office ran smoothly but still incorporated data management.

That seems like a bit of a step away from the more people-focused roles that you’d held before.

It was! I enjoyed it, but I reached a point where I felt like I’d done as much as I could, and I wanted to return to that personal connection with patients. That’s when I found the role of a cancer care coordinator at NPC. It stood out to me as something that I’d enjoy and that I’d be good at.

What was it specifically about the role of a cancer care coordinator that interested you?

It allows me to apply a holistic approach. Cancer is an incredibly scary disease that can leave a lot of people feeling isolated. Whilst the clinicians who work with them are brilliant, they don’t have the time to provide the additional support that some patients need. Beyond the clinical treatment, a lot of patients don’t know where they can access support or who they can talk to. I like the idea that I can help bring some comfort and normality to their lives.

What does a cancer care coordinator do?

A cancer care coordinator helps fill the gaps for a patient. When patients are working with clinicians on their treatment, they might be scared of asking questions or just forget in the moment. I’m there to help answer any questions that they might have and signpost them in the direction of support. Ultimately, my goal is to reduce the impact of the illness on their lives by providing mental and emotional support.

How can a cancer care coordinator support other people in the practice?

My role helps reduce pressure on clinicians as it means they can focus on the medical side of things, whilst I support them in other areas. It also provides another pathway for patients to contact the practice, which frees up the team on the front desk.

What do you like about working in general practice?

I like that I have greater involvement with patients. Having worked in secondary care, I’ve seen patients come through the system who could have benefited from more support at the primary care level. General practice allows for a greater continuity of care and provides me with the opportunity to build relationships. I like being able to be a constant for someone in their journey.

What do you love about working for NPC?

In everything NPC does, there is a caring and friendly approach. That’s so important for giving the patient the best experience. NPC puts that patient experience at the heart of what it does. I love that I get to play a part in that.

Finally, what do you get up to outside of your roles as a cancer care co-ordinator?

I’m a big reader, especially LJ Ross’ novels. I’m actually a member of the LJ Ross book club! I love the fact that they’re set in the North East and you can picture the locations that they’re talking about.

I also love Rugby Union, going to the cinema and exercising!

Thanks, Nicola!

Are you interested in a career with Northumbria Primary Care? We’re always looking for talented and hard-working people to join our teams. Head over to the Working For Us page to find out more!

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