Monthly Archives: July 2013

In the limelight by Nikki West

For the past few months Maverick TV have been following me in my day-to-day work as a Nurse Consultant at University Hospital Wales. The request came from the nursing board that channel 5 were doing a documentary on ‘Nursing’ and wanted nurses to show the diversity of their roles. As breast care is always somehow in the news, the latest being Angelina Jolie and her risk reducing mastectomies, I knew our department would be a target. The specialist nurse was not keen to do it and, in a way, I had reservations but we were gently persuaded.

Nicki running pictureAlthough I have been on TV many times in team sports, such as It’s a Knockout, Body Heat, Fort Boyard and Desert Forges, this was for pleasure and fun, whereas in my professional role I had to think about the consequences before allowing any filming; I was worried about the patients because of the sensitivity of the specialty. I had it in mind that at the end of the day they want to make a documentary and by the time it was edited they may have changed what was said and what was done so there was added pressure on me to be one step ahead.


The crew were very sensitive to my patients and almost subservient to me. I called the shots at every point and by the end of the filming I was so used to them being with me that I almost forgot they were in the room. I was amazed at the amount of patients who actually agreed to be filmed, both men and women. Any hospital appointment is scary but having to attend a clinic to investigate the breast is a sensitive and a very private affair. Most people do not want others to know about their appointments despite all the publicity and awareness that breast cancer receives.

The process was very exhausting and time-consuming, but well worth it, especially in light of the Francis Report and the negative press about nurses in the NHS. I really did feel that this may bring back some public trust and confidence in the nursing profession. To add a personal touch the crew followed me in my private life and filmed me running around Roath Park. They realised very quickly that my sport is very much a part of who I am and that without it I would not be as effective in my professional role. They also came to the university and filmed me teaching students which they recognised as a major part of my role and very important to me.

Nikki West at Oncology Nurse of the Year Awards (right)

Nikki West at Oncology Nurse of the Year Awards (right)

The highlight of the filming was being shortlisted for the British Journal of Nursing Oncology Nurse of the Year award and having to go to London for the dinner. The crew were really keen to film me at the ceremony and met us in London. We arrived in the rain, ball gown draped over my arm and a black cab waiting for us.  We had a staged get away to the opera house and were interviewed in the cab. The crew stayed all evening and ensured we got into a taxi back to our car for the 2 hour drive home. I really did have a ball!

The crew were amazing and genuinely interested in what nurses really do. They were surprised at the amount of autonomy and expertise that exists within nursing and how care has changed. The programme is being aired on Channel 5 this autumn.

Watch this space!