In conversation with...
In the hot seat for our latest edition of In conversation with… is Lynn Neeves, our clinical programme manager for our bowel cancer screening programme. Who, despite over 30 years in the NHS, originally wanted to be an interpreter for the United Nations!
Lives: Near Stansted Airport
Personal life: Lives with partner Mark. Has three daughters, Samantha, 28, Laura, 26 and Christie, 24.
What’s your role at our Trust and what does it involve?
I’m responsible for delivering our bowel cancer screening programme. I manage our nursing and admin teams, work closely with our commissioners and report our data to external bodies. I’m also involved in teaching new nurses.
It was recently confirmed that the age for NHS bowel cancer screening kits will be lowered from 60 to 50, how do you feel about that?
It can only be a good thing. We’d heard the rumours and were really hoping it would happen, so it was great to have it confirmed.
The uptake for doing these tests is around 45 to 50 per cent and we really want to see that increase. I’d say to anyone who is sent a kit – do it! Screening helps us to pick up the cancer earlier, allowing us to treat it more effectively.
Tell us about your career and how you came to our Trust.
I loved languages and when I was younger I wanted to be an interpreter for the United Nations.
But it was when I started working at an old people’s home, when a colleague said I’d make a good nurse, that I had the lightbulb moment – I’d never considered it before.
I started my training in Kent in 1982 and I absolutely loved it. I spent seven years as a staff nurse before I had my daughters. I kept my registration up while they were young by doing bank work, then later I became a pre-assessment sister for surgery in Harlow.
I moved to Addenbrooke’s Hospital and spent eight years there as the bowel cancer screening lead.
When I saw the opportunity here I thought it would be nice to try somewhere else. I’ve been here for two years.
What do you like about working at our Trust?
For me, it feels like where I trained. There’s a really friendly atmosphere and the ethos of looking after each other. You need to look after your staff, that’s how you get them to do good work.
I love my job. There are challenges here of course but I like organising things and engaging people to work together to solve issues. I really like teaching as it allows me to pass on what I’ve learned. And I’m still learning too.
And my lovely team of course – I couldn’t do my job without them!
Earlier this year there was a fire in our endoscopy unit at Queen’s Hospital, what was that like for you?
I got a call at 7am and I was relieved no one was hurt. When I came in the next day and there was soot everywhere I realised the extent of it.
We were about to start a third list for bowel scope tests which we had to postpone, but most patients were very understanding. We got the accreditation we needed almost overnight so we could do colonoscopy screenings at King George Hospital.
These patients have a one in 10 chance of cancer so it was really important we saw them. It was a real team effort.
I’ve actually been involved in two hospital fires. The first was when I was doing my training and that was quite hairy as we had to evacuate everyone at night. The next time was when I was a patient. I’d just had my first daughter by c-section the day before and it was quite scary as I couldn’t get out of bed. They had to wheel me into the nursery.
What are some of your proudest achievements?
As well as my role at our Trust, I’m also the national lead nurse for bowel cancer screening. I get to work with teams across the country giving advice, discussing policies. I love the strategic aspect of it.
I helped set up a national forum for screening practitioners – it’s like our own Facebook, but professional! We can share our experiences and it’s really popular.
Last year I completed my English literature degree with the Open University. We’d had three years of graduations with my girls and I was the next one! My whole family came to my graduation and it was a wonderful day.
I’d started it previously but hadn’t been able to finish for personal reasons, so it was gratifying to complete it. It was a lot of hard work though! Despite that, I’m now considering doing a Masters!
And I’m really proud of my three girls, they’re all really creative. Samantha is an events manager for a film company, Laura is a producer for UEFA, the football league, and Christie does PR for the fashion designer Amanda Wakeley.
What’s kept you in nursing for over three decades?
I get great satisfaction from helping someone, even the basic aspects of care like washing or talking to patients. It’s all part of getting them better to go home.
I remember one patient, it was her 40th wedding anniversary and sadly her husband couldn’t get to her before she died. I sat with her, chatting to her, and held her hand. I was with her when she died. That’s stayed with me.
Of course in my role now it can be quite difficult to tell people they have cancer, especially if they had no symptoms so it comes as a shock.
Any time for any other hobbies or interests?
I’m an amateur photographer! Since I was a child I’d wanted to see the Northern Lights, I’ve been a few times but I could never get a good picture.
So I got a proper camera and went on courses to learn how to use it. I love taking pictures of nature, I find it really relaxing and therapeutic. Now I’ve got over 8,500 pictures on my computer and ‘Oh no, mum’s getting her camera out again!’ is often heard at my house!
And, fast becoming our favourite question of In conversation with…..do you have any pets?
We have a family rabbit, Bernie. He belongs to my daughter Laura but stays with us if she’s on holiday. He’s a bit like a dog, lets you know when he wants a cuddle and stands by the fridge when he wants his food!