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Darwin’s cancer care team wins top award
“Winning the team section in this year’s Northern Territory Nursing and Midwifery Excellence Awards this May illustrates how well the Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre at Royal Darwin Hospital pulls together in difficult times,” says Clinical Nurse Manager Olivia Shields.
“At the Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre, we make our work environment positive for each other and for our clients, and that creates a really positive atmosphere,” Olivia says.
“Just to be a finalist gave the nurses a boost, knowing that the team was nominated by clients and their families.”
The annual awards recognise and celebrate the outstanding efforts of nurses and midwives who are exemplars in their profession, and who make a difference to the health and wellbeing of Territorians on a daily basis.
The Team Award for Excellence in Nursing/Midwifery was sponsored this year by CRANAplus and the award was presented by the CRANAplus Board chair Fiona Wake.
Fiona was delighted to present the award to the team, who have a reputation for treating their clients with a great deal of care, concern and empathy.
The landscape of oncology is changing as cancer care moves into a survivorship model, says Olivia, with diagnosis, treatment, remission and some patients then returning years later for new treatments that have come on board.
“Our trials area is always testing new drugs and combinations of drugs, and people are living longer. We get to know our patients. They come regularly for months, sometimes coming back after years.
“I think the nurses who are drawn to cancer care come down to two things. Firstly, a passion for learning. The nurses are incredibly committed to ongoing education and development in the nursing profession and are passionate about learning about new treatments.
“Secondly, our nurses are willing to meet people at a very difficult time in their lives, to help improve a situation, which, let’s face it, is a crappy one, and making it a bit better.”
The Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre team is made up of a number of specialist areas, all liaising closely with each other, with 13 cancer-care coordinators responsible for specific types of cancer, providing the main contact point with clients, ensuring they can get to scans and appointments, and understand what’s next in their cancer journeys.
On the treatment floor the chemo nurses administer systemic therapies such as chemotherapy and immunotherapy, blood products and supportive medications and work with the Clinical Trials Unit to support patients enrolled in trials.
“The coordinators are an excellent resource for the treatment nurses, and we all communicate openly and quickly with each other at all times, to provide holistic care.”
The Alan Walker Cancer Care Centre at Royal Darwin Hospital works in association with a few other centres including Katherine and Alice Springs, with clients needing more intense treatment regimes, specialised radiation, and oncology all going to Darwin.
The Centre has two Aboriginal Liaison Officers on the ground supporting clients, making sure they understand their whole chemo treatment and that they feel a sense of community, as language can be a barrier.
An Aboriginal Cancer Care Coordinator has been appointed, with the role of coordinating from the point of diagnosis through to the start of treatment.
A Cancer Journey, comprising a DVD and flipbook, has also been developed to assist health professionals tell the story of cancer to Aboriginal people from remote areas of the Northern Territory.
“We have hundreds of clients coming into the centre each week, maybe 40 – 50 a day,” says Olivia. Originally with eight chairs, the centre has built up to 20.
“This has been a pretty challenging couple of years… The nurses have been working really hard to continue to deliver a high standard of care in a whole new environment, and the clients have seen how hard we’ve been working.”
At the moment, the Centre is training up local nurses, but Olivia is hoping to attract nurses from around Australia after receiving this award.
“Winning the award is amazing, and I hope we can attract more stellar nurses around the country to consider joining our team.”
“It’s a great job, a great team and great place to live, work and play.”
Do you know a team doing amazing work in rural or remote Australia? Nominate them for a CRANAplus Award when applications open.