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Darwin’s cancer care team wins top award

11 Aug 2022

“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.

Fiona Wake (right) with mem­bers of the Alan Walk­er Can­cer Care Cen­tre team.

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.

Award win­ners group shot.

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.