Spotlight on: Holly Bawtree, teenage and young adult cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist

Teenagers and young adults affected by cancer often need support with the impact the illness is having on their emotions, friendships, studies, work and relationships – as well as excellent medical care.

Holly Bawtree, teenage and young adult cancer Clinical Nurse Specialist, is the reassuring, go-to person who can answer the questions young patients or their families might have, from when they’re diagnosed, throughout treatment, and afterwards.

Holly joined the Trust in March 2021, having previously worked in the teenage and young adult cancer unit in London’s University College Hospital for nine years.

She’s currently supporting around 25 patients and shared her story to mark World Cancer Day on Sunday 4 February.

“Part of my role is to help young patients come to terms with their treatment, feel more in control and understand unfamiliar medical terms,” she said.

“Hospital appointments, check-ups and exams can be distressing, especially for those who are in a transitional phase of their life.

“Some of the patients I follow are studying at college or thinking about going to university. Others might not be financially independent or have strong social connections yet.

“If a cancer diagnosis is thrown in, it can disrupt their whole life and I’m here to offer psychological and holistic support alongside the most practical aspects, like taking bloods or changing dressings.”

Holly is working 15 hours each week and her post is funded by the Teenage Cancer Trust.

Alongside colleagues working at the Big C she also organises a cancer group that meets once a month to share their stories, have a meal and play games.

“I truly love my job, I’ve worked with teenagers for almost 15 years and it’s very rewarding to be able to build lasting relationship with patients and their families,” she added.

“There are huge differences within the age group of my patients, some of them are very independent and others are still at home with their parents and so their needs can vary a lot.

“Thanks to experience and working with some brilliant people, I’ve learnt how to approach the different scenarios and I always try to show compassion and be understanding.

“I like having long conversations with patients and one of the benefits of the role is that I usually have time, so don’t feel rushed.

“The job can be intense at times and dealing with such strong emotions can be difficult, but I’ve been very lucky to meet a great team of colleagues who support me and have helped with setting up the service.”

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