With more than 15 years’ experience in nursing and Breast Care, Clinical Nurse Consultant Catherine Gillam recently joined the team at St Andrew’s Breast Care Service.
It was the fascinating dinner table conversations of her parents, who both worked in the medical field that led Cath to a career in healthcare.
“Initially I wanted to be a paramedic, but Dad encouraged me to complete my nursing degree first. He held nurses in high regard,” Cath said.
“Once I started studying nursing and experienced my first clinical placement in a palliative care facility, I just loved it. I remember my mum said to me if you are enjoying it now, you are going to enjoy nursing,” she said.
Soon Cath had her sights set on further study in midwifery, and that goal led her to applying for the Graduate Registered Nurse Program at The Wesley Hospital.
“I started at The Wesley and by chance I was sent on a rotation to a plastics and breast surgical ward, it was an amazing experience with nurses who valued teaching and staff who were extremely happy to come to work,” Cath said.
“What I enjoy most about nursing is I have the opportunity to create a very genuine connection with my patients, the aim is to make a stressful time a lot more bearable,” she said.
Since then, Cath has gained a broad range of experience in her field, opening herself up to every learning opportunity available which has enabled her to specialise in Breast Care.
“Based out of The Wesley, I have worked within the clinical education team, the Breast Care service and Choices Cancer Support Centre. I have also been fortunate to work closely with and learn a great deal from oncoplastic surgeon, Professor Owen Ung, for the past 10 years,” Cath said.
When an opportunity came up to join the Breast Care Service at St Andrew’s permanently, Cath jumped at the chance.
She joins a multi-disciplinary team including fellow Breast Care Nurse, Sophie, radiologists, breast surgeons and medical/radiation oncologists. The team take a multidisciplinary approach and meet regularly to plan the treatment and care of their patients.
“I was interested in this role at St Andrew’s because it provides the opportunity to be involved at every stage. Right from the start at diagnosis we are key and become a familiar and consistent support,” Cath said.
“Our patients will see only my partner Sophie or myself, so there is wonderful continuity and personalised care for the patient,” she said.
Cath said her goal for her new role is simple and much like that of the St Andrew’s Breast Care Service, to make the experience of breast cancer easier for patients.
“What our patients are going through is huge, so we’re here to help them navigate through what can be a very complex system,” Cath said.
“We would like our patients to have a positive experience and walk away surprised by what we can offer.
“Really, it’s just about giving patients what you’d want to give your mum or your sister.”
Learn more about St Andrew's Breast Care Service.