In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and Pink Ribbon Day – which is today -- we’re showcasing the work of Queensland’s Breast Care Nurse Service.
Breast Care Nurses have advanced skills and knowledge in breast cancer care. Queensland’s current model of care, specifically designed for Australia, is evidence-based and includes current oncology and psychosocial clinical practice guidelines for the care of women and men with breast cancer.
Around two years ago CEQ established the Breast Care Nurses Network (BCNN) to enable breast care nurses from across Queensland's public hospitals to share and collaborate with each other to optimise consistent and equitable access to information and support services for breast cancer patients.
Director, Healthcare Improvement Unit, Jody Paxton said breast care nurses were essential to improving outcomes for people diagnosed with breast cancer. ‘They act as patient advocates and ensure patients’ physical, psychological and emotional needs are met.’
Donna Wellington has been a Breast Care Nurse for three years and is currently based in the Central Queensland Hospital and Health Service regional city of Rockhampton. She is part of a team of four Breast Care Nurses across CQ whose role is to ensure all women and men receiving treatment for breast cancer in the region have timely access to support, information, care, and relevant referrals.
‘We help coordinate their care during what can be a confusing and confronting time. When a person is first diagnosed, we liaise with their GP and family members – with their consent – and arrange specialist appointments, diagnostic tests, and refer them to other services as required,’ Donna said. ‘We also help organise any travel required for specialist treatments and link them in with local community groups.’
Donna says the role is similar to that of a Nurse Navigator. ‘We cover all bases to make sure patients are supported and understand what their plan of care is so that they feel connected and engaged. Our support does not end at completion of treatment, as some patients will need support into survivorship or if their disease progresses.’
‘Evidence has shown that access to this type of model improves the experience of not only consumers, but clinicians involved in their care as well,’ Donna said.
With such a large area to cover (CQ is 114,000 square kilometres in size and has a population of more than 221,000 people), the team has started to use telehealth with rural hospitals such as Yeppoon, Blackwater and Emerald. ‘We were spending a lot of time travelling which reduced our capacity to actually be with patients. So now we co-ordinate with these hospitals and other rural hospitals via telehealth when patients need their dressings changed or their drains attended to.
The CQ Breast Care Nurse team are also actively involved in raising awareness of breast cancer in the community. ‘We attend expos and present at community group meetings to encourage screening and self-checks.’
CEQ would like to thank Donna and all Breast Care Nurses for their amazing and important work in supporting Queensland women and men with breast cancer.
The Breast Care Nurse Network is open to all Breast Care Nurses across Queensland’s hospital and health services. For more information please email email@example.com.
Pictured above: Breast Care Nurse, Donna Wellington .