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Making a difference to cancer patients and their care

Making a difference to cancer patients and their care

Ahead of World Cancer Day (Sunday 4 February) we spoke to nursing and support staff at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust to get a snapshot of the care and support they help provide to patients during their cancer journey.

According to Cancer Research UK, 375,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with cancer every year, that's roughly one person every two minutes. In fact, nearly one in two people can expect to be diagnosed with some form of cancer during their lifetime.

Helping patients through their cancer journey are a dedicated and committed group of people, some of which are highlighted below, working together to improve patient care and outcomes and support their care needs.

 

Sarah Eades, Ward Hostess (Elizabeth Loury ward) Southend Hospital

What do you do?
I sort out food orders on the ward and make teas and coffees for patients and their relatives.

How does your role support cancer patients?
As well as providing patients with food and refreshments, I also provide emotional support too. Cancer treatments can be tough for patients and they can feel uncomfortable or have trouble sleeping. Because of that sometimes patients want to offload and share how they’re feeling. Because I’m not medical, it’s easier for patients to see me as a listening ear. My patients are everything to me and I want to go above and beyond to do as much as I can for them. I recently gifted 14” of my hair to the Little Princess Trust to help children with cancer. It’s the second time I’ve donated and it took me six years to grow, so it’s a commitment because to donate you can’t dye your hair or have any treatments, but it’s just a small thing I can do to give back.

 

Lisa Walters, Ward Manager (Elizabeth Loury ward)

What do you do?
As Ward Manager I oversee care of all of our patients and the training and development of our nurses and healthcare assistants.  My goal is to ensure the patients are cared for to a very high standard and that they are treated with dignity and respect at all times.

How does your role support cancer patients?
I look after the nurses on the ward, making sure that their appraisals are up to date, that our junior nurses are trained to a high standard and that we’re compliant with audits. I have an open-door policy, so if colleagues need help they can talk to me about how they’re doing so I can signpost them to the right support.

I feel very fortunate to be in this post, as nursing is my passion and I thrive in the clinical environment, assisting my team to achieve a high standard of care, which all has an impact on our patient’s journey. For me, it's all about ensuring our patients receive a seamless experience throughout their cancer diagnosis.

 

Pandora Uzochi Nwokedi, Registered Nurse, Oncology (Elizabeth Loury Ward) at Southend Hospital

What do you do? 
As a registered nurse in oncology I look after the day to day needs of our acute oncology patients who are having chemotherapy, radiology and haematology treatments, and those who need to be admitted for treatment.

How does your role support cancer patients?
Because of the types of treatments they have, our patients can feel quite unwell. I help them to manage any ailments related to their cancer or any side-effects they are feeling as a result of their treatment.

As cancer is a long-term condition, when patients leave hospital they sometimes struggle to understand what happens with their care after they are discharged. As a nurse I work very closely with district nurses to support the care of patients in the community and we are in constant communication with them. That could be providing advice about problems with a patient’s chemotherapy pump or PiCC line, which is used to give them their medication.

 

Clair Mchugh, Matron for Cancer and Oncology at Southend Hospital

What do you do?
I make sure we offer a safe and high standard of care for patients on the ward, the acute oncology assessment unit, the chemotherapy unit and in outpatients.

How does your role support cancer patients?
When an oncology patient comes into hospital, whether that’s through the Emergency Department, the acute assessment unit or from outpatients, I make sure that a bed is available for them so that they can get the specialist treatment they need in a timely manner.

We strive daily to improve the services we offer for patients and their families. We offer a 24/7 triage line for patients who have been discharged home but who may need advice beyond their stay.

Patients who use the line are typically experiencing a complication from chemotherapy or their medication so it’s important that they are able to contact us at any time of the day or night. I’m responsible for making sure the triage line is accessible for patients and that the staff answering the phone have the right knowledge and skills to give the best advice.  

We want to achieve the best possible experience for our patients every day and to ensure they get access to the treatment and care that they need.

 

Laura Adams, Deputy ward manager (Elizabeth Loury ward) at Southend Hospital

What do you do?

I’m the nurse in charge, so I help my staff care for our patients. I’m chemotherapy trained, so can give patients their medication, and also help them manage their symptoms if they have any side effects. 

How does your role support cancer patients?
Cancer patients come to Elizabeth Loury ward for symptom management from their chemotherapy.  Chemotherapy can make patients have bad side effects such as sickness and diarrhoea, so we keep an eye on them here while they adjust to the treatment. If we can adapt their medication doses to make the side effects lessen, then we do, and we can help by giving them anti-sickness medication for when they go back home again. I see patients at all different stages of their cancer as people can react to their medications at any time. Before our patients go home, we give advice and guidance about their treatment and what to expect to reduce the need to come back into hospital where possible.

 

Pawel Bolek, Acute Oncology Nurse Specialist at Southend Hospital

What do you do?
I’m part of a team that helps cancer patients with acute cancer-related or cancer treatment related problems receive the care they need in the most appropriate setting.

How does your role support cancer patients?
I support patients who are referred into hospital experiencing acute illness, either as a result of their cancer, or from their cancer treatment. We have an acute assessment bay where I assess patients face to face, and if appropriate, organise lab tests, scans and follow up with their oncology team. It’s all about supporting patients so that they aren’t in hospital any longer than they need to be and helping them get well enough that they can go home and continue with their treatment.

I love my job. It's challenging but very rewarding, especially when you know you have made positive change to someone's cancer treatment journey.

 

Maisie Maloney, Physiotherapist at Southend Hospital

What do you do?
I help oncology patients improve their mobility so that they can leave hospital and live independently.

How does your role support cancer patients?
My role is mainly about supporting patients when they leave hospital and trying to get them back to being as independent as they can be. Chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments can be quite intense and patients may have side effects like pain, breathlessness and emotional anxiety too. The support I provide is holistic and patient centred. It’s not just about improving the patient’s mobility, it’s supporting their emotional needs too. Most of the time after treatment a patient won’t want to get up and move so we’ll have more of a chat about how they’re feeling and talk through any goals they want to achieve that will improve their quality of life.

 

Jade Murray, Occupational Therapist at Southend Hospital

What do you do?
I make sure patients leaving hospital are able to do so safely by assessing their home environment and helping them to achieving their personal goals during and after treatment.

How does your role support cancer patients?
I work with cancer patients to support them towards achieving meaningful goals both during and after their treatment for cancer. This includes doing functional assessments, assessing equipment and the patient’s home environment, managing their fatigue following cancer treatments, as well as providing emotional support to both patients and their families.

Identifying the goals that patients want to achieve is a big part of my role, which can include hobbies and interests, or a personal goal, and finding ways to support them towards achieving them – whether that’s during or after treatment or if they are approaching the end stages of their diagnosis. I enjoy working within Oncology, as I feel my role can make a huge difference to the lives of cancer patients and their families.

 

Sue Stoneham, Chaplain for Elizabeth Loury and Estuary wards at Southend Hospital

What do you do?
I provide a listening ear and a friendly face for patients, their families and staff on Elizabeth Loury and Estuary wards.

How does your role support cancer patients?
I provide pastoral support for patients and their families who are going through cancer. In the same way that doctors and nurses support the physical needs of patients through treatment, I’m there to take care of their spiritual needs. Cancer can be such a difficult journey for patients and families. Just being there for them and holding their hand, answering any questions they have, sharing in their tears can be a great comfort.

I try to build a friendship with patients and relatives so that I can be a constant friendly face to them during their time here, even if they move wards. I’m also here to support and listen to the staff who work with cancer patients. They have such an emotionally demanding job, if I can help take some of the weight off their shoulders, even for a moment, it can make a big difference.

 

Megan Brown, Specialist Nutrition Support Dietitian at Broomfield Hospital

What do you do?
I make sure oncology patients with oesophageal, stomach and head and neck cancers get the right nutrition to support their treatment and recovery.

How does your role support cancer patients?

I provide nutritional support to patients who have upper gastrointestinal and head and neck cancers. These cancers can make it difficult for patients to eat and keep their strength up for treatment and surgery. With these types of cancers, the patient’s oesophagus may get blocked by the tumour or they may not be able to eat initially after surgery, so they may require tube feeding or intravenous nutrition. I have to calculate their requirements and ensure we provide enough nutrition to aid their healing and recovery, whilst keeping their weight up. Their surgery can completely change their eating and drinking so I give tailored nutrition advice to help patients maintain their weight.

I see patients at all stages of their cancer journey – from diagnosis and throughout their treatment. Because of that I have a close relationship with the patients I look after, providing emotional support during this difficult time. I attend outpatient clinic appointments, and I am always at the end of a phone for patients and their relatives so that their care continues beyond their stay in hospital.

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