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EBMT 2021 Annual Meeting - John Murray Farewell


Saying goodbye: John Murray steps down as Nurses’ Group President

John Murray this year steps down as the Nurses’ Group President. After 4 years in the role, he will formally hand over the Presidency to Michelle Kenyon at this year’s meeting. Here John reflects on some of his achievements and his future hopes.

Q: Welcome to this year’s EBMT Annual Meeting John. How are you feeling about this being your last meeting as Nurses’ Group President?

A: Of course I am very sad to be stepping aside from the position of Nurses Group President. But I do feel honoured to have occupied a post that has been held by some extremely influential and charismatic people who have represented nurses across Europe over the past 37 years. I hope that I have continued in the same vein and made a difference and had an impact on education and learning. My aim was to try and increase awareness of the Nurses’ Group and make nurses in general more visible at major meetings and events.

Q: What are some of the highlights for nurses on this year’s program?

A: This year will be another exciting meeting. A couple of things that stand out for me will be the Artificial Intelligence in Healthcare talk (NG01, Monday 15 March). How will this change the landscape and our practice? I cannot wait to hear about the advances that have been made in technology and how this can be related to healthcare. I am very interested in GvHD and I am looking forward to hearing about a couple of the less commonly discussed manifestations that affect the lung and musculoskeletal problems.

Q: How did you first become involved with the Nurses’ Group, and later in the leadership? When did you first want to become the President?

A: Initially I was a member of the Scientific Committee;  I was somewhat starstruck at the first few meetings, I think I was pretty quiet. It was a great environment to learn and I found my voice and stepped up to be become the Chair of the Scientific Committee a few years later. At no point did I imagine being the President. It seemed too big a step. I am enthusiastic and have lots of ideas about how we can improve learning and education. This is probably why Aleksandra Babic the President at the time and a fantastic nurse approached me and suggested that I should apply. Over the next few months Aleks showed me the workings of EBMT. All of the stuff you never see. It was fascinating, I was hooked and here I am today, and it’s already time to handover to someone else!

Q: What are some of your key achievements over your years in post?

There have been several that I am proud of. The Nurses’ Group (NG) has expanded and developed in a lot of directions. This is down to having some amazing people as committee members who are driven and want to push boundaries.

The NG now has representation on all of the medical working parties (WP). This allows nurses to be active members of those WP and contribute to the work that is produced.

We are also present at all of the major educational meetings throughout the year, and have a separate and distinct nurses’ track with sessions designed for and delivered mostly by nurses. These covered the ITC, CAR-T and Mid Term Focus meetings of 2020.

We are launching e-learning for nurses. There is a transformation of the nurse’s textbook onto the e-learning platform. The reader will be able to move from chapter to chapter at their own speed. At the end of each section is a short quiz, which, once passed enables a certificate of learning to be downloaded. We also have a video-on-demand specific e-learning program that will be launched at the annual meeting and will have a similar format of learning with questions and a certificate.

The NG has also moved our teaching out of mainland Europe and visited China, India, Myanmar and South America. This has created good links and strong bonds resulting in on-going collaborative working, particularly with a series of 10 webinars that are translated from Spanish to English and are on the website.

We have also developed strong nursing links with many pharmaceutical companies. This is enabling the NG to perform studies and give advice on patient information. Our aim is to improve patient care through these collaborations.

Q: For delegates not in the Nurses Group, what does being the President entail? Are their huge demands on your time throughout the year?

It is a position that has a lot of demands, but one that I think everyone who has occupied the chair has relished; I know I have really enjoyed it. You are a focal point, representing nurse’s thoughts and ideas to our medical colleagues and to the pharma companies. It is a privileged place that not many occupy and one that I have taken very seriously. It is also a great opportunity to be able to guide and shape the direction of education of nurses in the field of HCT. There have been huge steps taken over the past 5 years. Haplo-identical transplantation and now CAR-T for instance are commonplace rather than experimental treatment. It is an exciting time!

Q: How would you describe morale in the Nurses’ Group after the last 12 months, which have been so difficult for many nurses and other medical staff?

A: I would say that despite all of the challenges that COVID-19 has brought the morale of the NG is exceptionally high. This is borne out by the continuing efforts and high output from each and every one of the NG committees. Even during the tightest restrictions, and at the height of infections, with many centres having staffs redeployed or off sick, meetings have continued to be planned and run, webinars recorded, papers published. The NG is a special group of people and I am proud to be a small part of it.

Q: For you personally, how has COVID-19 transformed your life and professional outlook over the last year?

A: It has certainly made things more difficult at work and in my role as President. For those that do not know me, I do not have a mobile phone! This past 12 months has been a digital learning curve with multiple on-line meetings and floods of emails. Still no phone though! We are all here for our patients, so even when the restrictions seem difficult, I reflect on why we are doing this, to save lives. It seems obvious but can sometimes be lost, we are nurses and we care.

Q: While you are handing over to Michelle Kenyon, will you still have an active role in the Nurses’ Group in the future? What kinds of things are you hoping for the group in future years?

Yes, as part of the role, I will be Past President for 12 months. This allows a safe handover and transfer of information. There is always a lot going on. The NG over the next few years needs to grow, develop and support our junior nurses. These are the nurses that will be looking after us all in the future. We will use digital platforms to enable virtual meetings to run alongside face-to-face meetings. The largest barriers for most nurses to attend meetings are time away from home and the cost. By having a focussed digital learning platform we can begin to address these difficulties and allow more nurses to attend.

Q: This interview has been about nothing but work! But tell us a bit about your life outside work – how does John Murray unwind?

A: I love to be outside, no matter the weather, sun, wind, rain or snow. I like to take part in triathlons and I enjoy cycling holidays and running in the fells of the Lake District. I entered the Marathon Des Sables, a 6-day multi-run event in 2020, but it has been deferred several times due to COVID-19. I hope to be able to take part in October 2021 and run across the Sahara desert. When not rushing about I like to read science fiction and watch murder mysteries, usually with a large plate of food to refuel.

Thanks John and enjoy this, your last EBMT meeting as Nurses’ Group President.

John Murray Farewell