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Award-winning Macmillan nurse who left school at 15 with no qualifications becomes honorary lecturer at Bangor University

Macmillan nurse Sharon Manning

1989 – Sharon Manning began working at Glan Clwyd Hospital as a cleaner

2004 – Graduated with Bachelor of Nursing degree (BN) from Bangor University

2011 – Became a Macmillan Gynaecology Clinical Nurse Specialist

2017 – Winner of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board New Ways of Working

–       Winner of Macmillan Innovation Excellence Award

–       Awarded Macmillan Fellowship

2021- Awarded honorary lectureship with Bangor University

Sharon Manning, a Macmillan Gynaecology Clinical Nurse Specialist at Glan Clwyd Hospital in Rhyl, has been invited by Bangor University to become an honorary lecturer.

An inspirational Macmillan nurse, Sharon has won several awards and commendations for her innovative and compassionate approach towards end of life cancer care.

She will share her nursing story and professional experience with undergraduate students on the three-year, Adult Nursing BN course, as well as with postgraduate nurses.

Speaking about this honorary role at Bangor University, Sharon, said: “I am really excited and grateful for this opportunity from Bangor University, especially as it is where I studied for my nursing degree. My aim is simply to inspire student nurses to be open to innovation and change. I want the students to touch or speak to patients like they would want themselves or their loved ones to be spoken to or touched.”

Sharon, who is originally from Lancashire, has worked for the NHS in Wales for more than 30 years. In 1989, after becoming a single parent, Sharon moved to north Wales, determined to make a fresh start with her life. Her first role on the hospital wards was working as a cleaner at Glan Clwyd Hospital. Speaking about her first job, Sharon, said: “In the departments where I would clean, I would also observe qualified and student nurses working. It made me think ‘Wow, I would give my right arm to have that opportunity!’ However, I never thought I could achieve it as I left school at 15 with no qualifications.”

Sharon decided that to develop a career she needed to gain qualifications, so her next step was to become a nursing auxiliary. She successfully achieved this, working in paediatrics for four years before gaining a NVQ Level 3 in Healthcare Studies. 

When Sharon started working in Glan Clwyd Hospital, patients in north Wales did not have a cancer centre. Patients had to travel to the Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Liverpool or the Christie Hospital in Manchester for cancer treatments.

In 1994, the Clatterbridge Centre began to hold a weekly outpatient clinic at Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board but the multi-disciplinary team had no nursing auxiliary. Sharon spotted an opportunity and joined the team. It was from this point that Sharon’s focus on providing the best possible care for people living with cancer began. It was also when Sharon decided to become a registered nurse (RN).

One day at a meeting Sharon was told by a registered nurse in the team that her opinions were not needed. Immediately after the meeting, Sharon went to the School of Nursing in Bangor to find out how to enrol so that she too could become a registered nurse.

Sharon was accepted to study Adult Nursing at Bangor University. Speaking about her decision to pursue a nursing career in her 40s, Sharon, said: “I qualified as a nurse in 2004 when I was 47. I always knew my nursing career would be short. I trained late, but that didn’t matter to me. I knew I definitely wanted to make a difference to the quality of care patients received.”

In 2017, Sharon received three prestigious awards in recognition of her innovative work. Some ovarian cancer patients in the palliative care stage of their disease can develop malignant ascites, which is a painful build-up of fluid in the lining of the abdomen. Sharon set about introducing permanent catheters for palliative ovarian cancer patients – a life-changing service that allows patients to drain the ascitic fluid from their abdomen at home, rather than having to go to hospital to be drained. This approach reduced the number of hospital visits undertaken during the final stages of the patient’s life and gives the patient more time with their loved ones.

Speaking about her nursing career as a Macmillan professional, Sharon said: “I am very proud to carry the Macmillan title in my role. The Macmillan name is very well respected. Patients, relatives, and members of the public expect the best form you and they should receive nothing less.

“My patient and I have previously promoted Macmillan successfully. My patient and her husband shared their cancer story and spoke about how I, as a Macmillan professional had supported them both. Our story was made into a booklet and sent to the public asking for donations. We raised £430,000! What a wonderful legacy my patient left for her family.

“When I reflect on my work, I feel extremely privileged. I have looked, and currently look after some beautiful ladies along their cancer journey. I am frequently humbled by their bravery and resilience. The true heroes are these ladies who face their cancer diagnosis with such courage and dignity.”

Talking about her current CNS role, Sharon said:” More than ever before as key workers we now concentrate on the patient’s individual wellbeing. One of my roles is to psychologically support the patient, their family or carer from diagnosis, through treatment, disease recurrence, palliation and those patients living on with their cancer. I am there to help enable them to carry on their life, knowing that if they need me, they can call me.”

 “I am 64 now and intend to work in this post for the next two years. I never stop looking and asking can we do things differently to enhance patient care and I will go on doing that until I retire.”

Lynne Williams, Head of School of Medical and Health Sciences at Bangor University said:

“It is with great pride and pleasure that we see Mrs Sharon Manning has been awarded the title of Honorary lecturer here at Bangor University. It’s good to see that an alumna of ours has gone on to achieve great results and improvement to services for patients with Oncogynaecological conditions ensuring that they are at the forefront of care and her innovation to services is to be commended.

In addition, to have Sharon be able to assist with the delivery of our new curriculum and shape the future nursing workforce and inspire the next generation of nurses is excellent news.”

Talking about Sharon’s career and the impact that she has made as a Macmillan professional, Richard Pugh, Macmillan Head of Services in Wales said: “Sharon is an exceptional nurse, and a great role-model for anyone embarking on a career in nursing.  

“Sharon puts her patients’ needs at the very heart of her nursing, and it is this focus that drives her need to get the very best care for her patients. She’s determined and innovative and we are very proud that she is a Macmillan nurse.

“Sharon has two more years in nursing, so the honorary lectureship awarded by Bangor University this year, is a great opportunity for Sharon to share her professional experience and inspire the next generation of nurses.”

If you would like to find out more about nursing at Bangor University, visit their website at https://www.bangor.ac.uk/.

The Macmillan Support Line on 0808 808 00 00 (open seven days a week) has specially trained nurses and cancer information specialists who can provide information and advice, as well as emotional support, to help people with cancer cope with the additional strain of the coronavirus pandemic.