Matthew Fowler is one of the first consultant ACPs (Advanced clinical practitioners) for oncology and haematology at UHDB with over 24 years of experience. He shares his experience within the NHS as an ACP.
How did you become an ACP?
In 1997, I started working in oncology and haematology as a staff nurse for around five or six years. Following this, I worked as a chemotherapy nurse for a few years prior to becoming a clinical nurse specialist, and then returned to the wards in a senior charge nurse role for five years. I spent some time as a matron too but soon discovered this was not going to be the career path that I wished to pursue. I found that I really missed looking after patients, so I explored the potential of becoming an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP) and was successful in obtaining a post. Whilst working as an ANP I completed my ACP training about seven years ago now, which led me to a consultant nurse/lead ACP position at University Hospitals Birmingham. I undertook this role for six years and then the consultant ACP role came up at Derby.
How long have you worked for this trust?
I have been with UHDB for three months now and was previously working at University Hospitals Birmingham. A number of things brought me to Derby such as a promotion, knowing how amazing the ACP team were and the opportunities available here. Not only that but it is a really forward thinking and supportive trust to work for.
What does your day-to-day or week involve?
I do three long days in CTAU and I also support the team in Burton one day a week. The majority of my time is spent treating cancer patients and supporting them through their emergency pathway. We promote admission avoidance where possible, liaising with other specialties within the trust to try and offer timely care to patients. I do a lot of teaching on the job too which is something I particularly enjoy. I have 24 years of experience in haematology and oncology now, so I feel very fortunate to be in a senior clinical role whereby I get to impart my knowledge as well as continually learn from others. I am fortunate to work with a supportive team within the cancer business unit who are very forward thinking and proactive about change management; it’s a very supportive culture to work in.
So what is the most enjoyable part that you take away?
No two days at work are the same, however by far the most enjoyable aspect is being able to practice as a senior clinician, making decisions with cancer patients at what is often a very difficult time for them. The team I work with are second to none and as one of my passions lies in teaching, I feel very privileged to be able to do this as well as develop our workforce. There are not many of these roles in the UK, however, I have been very fortunate to have this opportunity at Derby so I can remain clinical as well as develop as a senior leader.
What work have both yourself and fellow ACP colleagues been involved in to showcase the talent of UHDB’s ACPs?
We are looking at redesigning our pathway for cancer patients that come in for same day emergency care. For example, we are piloting some extended hours so that we can see patients later during the day. From a trust wide perspective, the leadership team are like no other. There is equally a really strong leadership team of ACPs within the organisation. We meet up regularly to work on joint projects and showcase work that we are doing which allows us to all learn from each other as well.
How would you encourage more people to become an ACP?
I think any AHP/nurse that is really keen to explore going down the clinical route, as opposed to the operational/management route, should consider becoming an ACP. Derby offers a fantastic training programme with a fully funded MSc programme as well as the opportunity to rotate across specialities. UHDB are trail blazers in the field of developing the ACP role which is huge credit to Clare Sutherland and Jenny Riley.