(For treatment side effects and complications only)
Posted 17th July 2023
My name is Sharon McGinn and I have been working at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust since September 1988, for a total of nearly 35 years!
I joined as a Therapy Radiographer student, and was actually paid by the hospital to undertake my training due to an issue at the time with recruitment and retention for Therapy Radiographers. My first three years were spent between the Clatterbridge and Christie Radiotherapy Schools for theoretical training, and at Clatterbridge for my main clinical placements. It was then known as the MRCRO (Mersey Regional Centre for Radiotherapy and Oncology). I qualified in June 1991 and started employment as a Therapy Radiographer in the same month.
One of my first departmental roles was with the CHART Team, working alongside the late Dr Brian Cottier, and Dr John Littler on radiotherapy and chemotherapy trials. It was a fantastic opportunity to be involved in ground breaking treatments that helped pave the way in hyper-fractionated radiotherapy and also drugs like Gemcitabine. I learnt so much during my 13 months on the team.
After my rotation through trials, I spent nine years working on various linacs, working full-time whilst raising my family - often single handily as my husband was often away on foreign travels with the Royal Navy. During this time I was witness to many new radiotherapy techniques, beam modification and planning systems. The centre also became a Trust changing its name to CCO (Clatterbridge Centre of Oncology).
In 2001, I side-stepped into Computer Planning and accepted a permanent position as a Senior Dosimetrist. I enjoyed being in this role for 17 years. During this time I have seen many changes in the Planning Software Systems that has allowed us to create radiotherapy plans for very complex disease sites that are individually tailored to each patient. I have seen radiotherapy techniques change over the years from single slice contour planning and 3D Conformal Planning to the multi-slice CT scans we use today for VMAT plans. We often co-register our planning scans with multiple diagnostic scans to aid clinician delineation of tumour sites so that we can then use our advancing AI programs to tailor the radiotherapy plans to spare normal tissue and allow organ preservation whilst delivering accurate high dose radiotherapy to the intended target.
In 2018 I had the opportunity to apply for a Band 7 role as a Clinical Trial Dosimetrist. I have always been passionate about changing the way we treat cancer using innovative methods that have often been the result of Clinical Trials and Research and Development. I really enjoy being part of the Research Delivery Team, helping to co-ordinate the radiotherapy pathways for our patients that are enrolled on to clinical trials and submit robust clinical trial data. I have the opportunity of collaborating with expert staff, not only at CCC but also nationally and internationally so that we deliver high-quality care and excellence in research to drive forward the development of new leading edge drugs and radiotherapy for our patients.
Whilst the last few years have been extremely challenging for us all during COVID-19, I know a lot of us find our roles extremely rewarding. We all strive to deliver highly specialist care whether that is with chemotherapy, immunotherapy, gene therapy or radiotherapy to name but a few. To see Clatterbridge change over the years from a one site hospital to a three site hospital with many chemotherapy clinics across the North West is testament to all the wonderful staff that deliver outstanding safe and specialised care to our patients.