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Solihull Practice Nurses inspired to take innovative approaches to cancer support

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After completing a recent cancer course, Practice Nurses from Solihull have been inspired to make changes to the way they work with cancer patients. Funded by Macmillan, the course was one of 11 pilots across the country, each tailored to suit the needs of the local population.

The eight-month course was largely self-directed with the Nurses asked to gather information and reflect on their experiences, but also attend a face-to-face session each month. Beginning with an introduction to cancer, other topics covered treatment pathways, supporting patients, motivational interviewing and handling difficult conversations.

Jacqui Rea, a Practice Nurse at Craig Croft Medical Centre said she was surprised that after 27 years’ nursing, she learnt some new approaches for talking to patients about their cancer treatments and procedures.

She said, “Since completing the course, I think more about the individual and their feelings. I found one patient still struggled with her body image despite having a mastectomy ten years ago. She opened up to me about feelings she might not have shared with friends or family.”

Jacqui has also been inspired by the course to develop a bespoke computer template which prompts her to record observations of various aspects of her patients’ wellbeing, energy and mood, as well as recording the advice/referrals that have been given.

Another Practice Nurse who has been influenced by the course is Margaret Jones from Church Road Surgery. She has begun holding cancer care reviews to give patients a chance to talk about a range of issues they may be facing – often about mental health, finance and relationships. Margaret explained, “You never know what questions are going to come up at these appointments and in my role as a Nurse doing Cancer Care Reviews I can make a difference by signposting to other services that can help.

“By listening and following the patient agenda I was able to help a man with concerns about sexual activity after treatment for prostate cancer. Importantly one patient I was seeing admitted that he couldn’t read or write, so we had to take a different approach to the normal practice of giving him a pack of leaflets for support groups. He had not shared this with other clinicians before.”

Margaret was particularly fascinated by the psychology side to the course which has helped her understand the effect that cancer has on people’s lives and helped her communication skills in general. She concluded, “I feel privileged to have been able to attend the training – I only wish I had the chance to do it sooner!”

Rebecca Billingsley, Macmillan Primary Care Nurse Facilitator with Solihull Clinical Commissioning Group said, “We are hoping to run similar courses in the future, plus a series of ‘Lunch and Learn’ events related to cancer care.” This is still in development and will be a different format to the pilot, but any enquiries can be sent directly to Rebecca: rebecca.billingsley@nhs.net.

An evaluation report on the Macmillan Cancer Course for Practice Nurses will be published soon.