Sheffield’s gain was definitely Leeds’ loss when experienced radiotherapist Jan Johnson decided to move back to the city after a stint up the M1.
Jan is one of the many healthcare professionals leading the way at Weston Park – Yorkshire’s only specialised cancer hospital.
Jan, from Barnsley, has seen an ultra-fast change in technology and treatments since she returned to Sheffield 25 years ago and, with a wry smile, agrees the Steel City is better than our Yorkshire neighbours to the north.
Jan is one of Weston Park’s therapy radiographers. Her job is to use radiation to treat malignant disease and cancers.
You might see her operating some of the futuristic looking machines which look like they come out of a sci-fi film.
During a tour of the hospital, she is keen to show off the some of the amazing – and costly – kit which helps patients.
“What attracted me to the job was it was very technical, lots of kit and lots of IT but actually, at the heart of it, it was all about looking after people,” Jan said.
“Cancer patients are in such a difficult stage of their life and they need a lot of nurturing and a lot of support – plus all the information they have to take in can be and often is really overwhelming.
“For me, it was that good mix of different elements that made me come into this field – the techniques, the technology and why every health care professional comes to work for the NHS is caring for people.”
And it is that care that drives Weston Park staff like Jan. But along with looking after people she gets a buzz from the ‘close knit’ group at Weston Park and different roles that help someone with cancer.
“I wouldn’t have worked here for 25 years and I certainly wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t love working here. There’s a lot of staff here who’ve been here a long time and that says it all.
“Another reason why Weston Park is so unique is it’s a smallish hospital and it’s inspirational that the other staff members make it such a brilliant place to work because we’re really close knit – lots of different disciplines working together.
“The general public view is there’s lots of activity from doctors and nurses, which there is, but actually a lot of our allied healthcare professionals have a really important role to play, like me being a radiographer, the dieticians, the speech and language therapists and the physiotherapists to name a few.”
Despite the amazing work Jan does, it is easy to forget that some who use Weston Park may never make it through the treatment. She is quick to say they cannot make everyone better, but she stresses her job comes with so much satisfaction.
“You see lots of positive stories but we can’t always cure people. Even when we can’t do that we make the patient’s experience better and that’s the positive we take away from that during a very, very difficult time in their lives.
“In terms of kit and the actual department, it’s completely unrecognisable from when I started.
“The machines and the techniques have changed and the real detailed accuracy to pinpoint cancer has improved massively.
“In the imaging processes we can now see things inside people that we couldn’t see in the past – it’s changed beyond belief.”
Dealing with patients suffering from cancer has to take its toll. A lot of people from the outside looking in would ask how people like Jan do it.
“We have excellent training to prepare us for what we do. When we recruit people they do need to be prepared for this type of work because it is emotionally demanding.
“I can’t see myself doing any other job. I don’t regret the choice I made to come here for one minute.
“It’s the best job in the world.”
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