Gillian Crawford : Cancer Research UK
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Gillian Crawford

*Clinical Nurse Specialist Cancer Sciences Division, University of Southampton

What inspired you to get into science?

I come from a family of nurses so I suppose I was aware of things medical and scientific. I was always interested in medical stories in books and on the TV. I don’t think I ever seriously considered anything else.

What subjects did you enjoy at school?

Biology, English (especially Literature) and Languages.

What is your job and what does your position involve?

I am a Senior Genetic Nurse Counsellor working in a genetics department with people with a family history of cancer. My time is split equally between research and clinical work.

In my research job, I am the local co-ordinator for some national research studies looking at the prevention and early detection of cancer in families at an increased risk. This involves recruiting people into the studies, collecting data and long term follow up. I raise awareness of these studies both locally and nationally and work on my own research projects.

The other part of my job involves seeing patients in clinic who have a family history of cancer to discuss their own risks of developing cancer, make recommendations for screening and sometimes complete genetic testing. 

What qualifications do you have?

  • General nurse training (3 years)
  • Some specialist nursing courses in cancer, teaching, HIV and AIDS, and research (completed over a number of years)
  • Bachelor of Arts degree with Honours in Health Care Studies (1 year, with credits courses already completed)
  • Now studying for a Masters of Science in Cancer Care (4 years part time)

How did you become interested in cancer research?

Since qualifying as a nurse, I have always worked within cancer care, and cancer research has always been a big part of my job (I used to give patients chemotherapy treatments). In the field of cancer genetics, research is being completed to improve the early detection and prevention of cancers in families who have a high risk of developing cancer.

What are the best and worst things about being a nurse?

Best things

  • The contact with patients and their families (particularly within cancer care where you may see some families for many months/years).
  • All the opportunities for learning and personal development.

Worst things

  • Shift work (especially nights).

What qualities do you think it takes to be a good nurse?

Being able to listen, empathetic, organised, lots of common sense, attention to detail, motivated, energetic, interested in people and having good coping mechanisms.

Do you have any advice for young people who are interested in getting into science or medicine?

There are loads of opportunities out there, so go for it. Even if you make a small contribution to a person you have made a difference.

Do you have any other useful advice?

Be open to all opportunities, because where you find yourself working may not be where you ever imagined you’d be!

3 for Fun

What music do you listen to?

U2, Razorlight, The Killers, Coldplay, KT Tunstall

Where did you last go on holiday

Skiing in France

If you had a super power, what would it be?

Being invisible!

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Updated: 25 September 2009