In Conversation With...Janet Copp, a haematology nurse who's worked in the NHS for over 40 years
Here is the next instalment of our series: In Conversation With…Janet Copp, haematology clinical nurse specialist.
Janet has been a nurse for over 40 years since developing a love of first aid when she was a little girl. She’s been at our Trust for more than 30 years.
Her favourite thing about being a nurse? Besides her patients and her colleagues, she loves that no two days are ever the same. We’re just grateful she stuck it out after being set up with a bed pan on one of her first shifts! Read on to find out more…
Lives: Roxwell, a small village near Chelmsford, with husband Andrew. They have a son, Sebastian.
And: As well as her role as a nurse, Janet is also a flu champion and is passionate about our staff having the jab to protect our patients!
What’s your role at our Trust and how long have you been with us?
I look after our haematology patients wherever they are in the hospital. I also join ward rounds, take bone marrow for tests, see patients before chemotherapy and run telephone clinics. We give blood results in these clinics, which saves the patients from having to come in. Our team sees around 80 patients a week.
Another major part of my role is working with the Living With and Beyond Cancer team, where we look at the patients holistically and help them to live well through their treatment and beyond, helping them get back to normal life.
I started at Oldchurch Hospital in 1980, on the radiology suite. Then I was the sister for our gynae and surgery outpatients’ service for around ten years.
I moved into haematology when we started running clinics and have been there ever since. I’m one of three clinical nurse specialists and we all have our own specialisms, mine is lymphoma.
Had you always wanted to be a nurse?
Yes, right from when I was tiny I had a love of first aid. Then I saw Lesley Judd, a Blue Peter presenter, join a nursing student who was training at Barts Hospital on TV and just fell in love with it.
My grandmother took me to the Red Cross when I was a teenager so I could do all my first aid exams, I loved it. When I was at sixth form I did a shift at the then Victoria Hospital as a volunteer, which I really enjoyed.
My mum said I wouldn’t make a career out of nursing, she wanted me to be a secretary so made me do shorthand and typing as a backup, but I knew nursing was for me.
I applied to Barts Hospital and started my training there in 1976 when I was 18. I remember having to learn to do our nursing hats, the only way to do it was on a cake tin!
You’ve worked in haematology for a long time, what do you like about it?
I find haematology so interesting. I was inspired by Dr Alison Brownell who worked in our Trust when I joined the team. She also looked after my mother-in-law, Kathleen, when she had lymphoma 22 years ago.
We get patients from diagnosis, so we spend a long time with them and get to know them well, developing a special relationship. We see all aspects of diagnosis and treatment. Some patients go into remission, and in some cases we are involved in end of life care.
You’ve been a nurse for over 40 years – any memorable patients in that time?
My first job was on an oncology ward. Early on, a patient bell went and other nurses said, ‘that’s Ethel, she wants a bed pan, you can do that, can’t you?’
I got one and went in and as soon as she saw the bed pan she said, ‘they’ve set you up haven’t they?’ She didn’t have any legs so she certainly couldn’t use a bed pan!
What’s kept you at our Trust for so long?
I love the people and the patients. You can’t walk down a corridor without meeting someone. It’s a friendly place where everyone helps everyone. We’ve got a fantastic team in haematology.
I also love it that no two days are the same.
I was devastated when we went into quality special measures, but everyone worked together to get us out.
Tell us about your role as a flu champion, and why you’re so passionate about all of our staff getting vaccinated
As a flu champion I give the jab to colleagues. I feel that having the jab is part of our duty of care to our patients – they have enough to worry about when they’re in hospital without the risk of catching flu from staff who don’t know they’re carrying it.
Some of our patients are vulnerable and more at risk to the complications of flu than us. We have a way of preventing it, so we must do it!
I mainly vaccinate staff in my division now – at the start of the flu campaign I did a couple of mass vaccination sessions!
As flu champions, we get a loyal following of people who like coming back to us for the jab, I’ll often have colleagues who’ll say to me in the run-up to flu season, ‘have you got the vaccine yet, Janet?’
I think people like coming to me for the chat!
What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
I love gardening and cooking. I like to have friends over for dinner - I don’t have a signature dish, I’ll try anything once! I love baking too – so I’m a big Bake Off fan.
I’m also the main carer for Kathleen, my mother-in-law.
And we love to travel. We visited Australia last year, that was lovely. We try to visit the Lake District every year for a family walking holiday.
And our favourite question of In Conversation With… do you have any pets?
We’ve got two cats, Montgomery and Millicent (we call them Monty and Millie!) They’re both black and white and as the village we live in is quite rural they’re helping to keep the field mice population down.
We planned to get one kitten for my son, but he wanted Monty and I fell in love with Millie, I couldn’t leave her there so they both come home with us.