As an in-house Bowel Care Nurse at Bowel Cancer Australia, Fiona has dedicated the past eight years to the prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and the best care for everyone affected by bowel cancer.
Described as a lifeline, Bowel Cancer Australia’s team of Bowel Care Nurses and Nutritionist adds an extra layer of support to the trusted relationship patients have with their treating medical team at a very difficult time.
In recognition of the important role our team of Bowel Care Nurses provide, the Cancer Nurses Society of Australia (CNSA) has chosen to feature Fiona as their Member of the Moment this June.
Where do you work?
For the past 8 years I’ve been working as an in-house Bowel Care Nurse at Bowel Cancer Australia, a 100% community-funded national charity dedicated to prevention, early diagnosis, research, quality treatment and the best care for everyone affected by bowel cancer.
As a Bowel Cancer Australia Bowel Care Nurse, I help to fill the gap in the health system bowel cancer patients often experience. We know it is common for bowel cancer patients' to be seeing up to 5 different types of health professionals.
Access to a Bowel Care Nurse would help improve patient care coordination considerably. Bowel Cancer Australia would like to see a Bowel Care Nurse in every hospital providing specialist knowledge and care for bowel cancer patients.
Bowel Cancer Australia is currently supporting the pilot of an integrated Bowel Care Nurse in both the hospital and community setting in the Shepparton region.
How did you get into Cancer Nursing?
Prior to working at Bowel Cancer Australia, I had the opportunity to work at Prince of Wales ICU where I gained a lot of experience nursing a wide range of patients.
I think this is where my interest in oncology developed.
A Bowel Care Nurse is a registered nurse who has specialist knowledge and experience caring for patients with bowel cancer.
What do you love most about your job?
I have the privilege of developing one-on-one relationships with patients and their loved ones and get to ‘travel’ with them along the treatment pathway and beyond, which I couldn’t do when working as an ICU nurse.
In my role, I get to speak with patients and their loved ones who contact the charity via the free helpline daily. I love that I can be there to listen and offer reassurance; direct people to the fantastic range of educational and awareness material available on the charity’s website; and connect patients and loved ones with others.
Described as a lifeline, our team of Bowel Care Nurses and Nutritionist add an extra layer of support to the trusted relationship patients have with their treating medical team at a very difficult time. Our Peer-to-Peer Support Network and Buddy Program build communities through shared experiences, offering patients and loved ones with reassurance and an invaluable level of support that can only be provided by someone else who has been there.
What are some of the challenges you face?
Despite being the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, bowel cancer patients don't receive the same level of support as other common cancers.
I believe patients shouldn’t be disadvantaged based on the type of cancer they are diagnosed with. Too many times I’ve had patients tell me they have been diagnosed with the "wrong" cancer. The pathway of a bowel cancer patient is often stressful and challenging, resulting in feelings of fear and anxiety.
Many patients must undergo a series of investigations before finally receiving a definitive diagnosis, at which time they are faced with life-changing decisions about their treatment and future. Bowel cancer patients and their families are left to deal with a ‘new normal' and face a range of issues, which can include ongoing bowel and urinary problems, sexual dysfunction, depression, dietary issues and permanent colostomy.
The disease can result in psychological, social and emotional issues, which need to be well understood and considered when speaking with patients and providing them with support.
What are the skills you need for your role?
As a Bowel Care Nurse, having knowledge about bowel cancer, it's treatment and other bowel conditions is essential. I serve as the main point of contact for patients and their loved ones, particularly in regional areas, where support and services can be stretched, so I need to be able to identify the individual needs of the patient by really listening and asking the right questions.
Listening skills are essential in my role as I am unable to see the patient. Patience and empathy are also incredibly important.
What is the best piece of advice you would give to a junior nurse who wants to gain the skills to work in a similar role?
Simply, listen. Always try to put yourself in the patient's position and think about how you would like to be treated.
Being on the other end of the phone is hard sometimes, as you don't have the non-verbal communication cues, but some people will actually talk a lot more and open up without feeling embarrassed over the phone, so it's an opportunity to really use your listening and empathy skills.
For nurses who would like to increase their knowledge and gain CPD in bowel care nursing, Bowel Cancer Australia offers online learning modules which provide an overview of bowel cancer and investigate the main physical, psychological, social and emotional issues of specifically relevant to people newly diagnosed or living with metastatic disease.
Each module focuses on the supportive care of bowel cancer patients and includes strategies for improving their quality of life.
Please consider supporting Bowel Cancer Australia’s June Appeal.
Despite being the third most commonly diagnosed cancer, bowel cancer patients don’t receive the same level of support as other common cancers.
To date, the Federal Government has committed $79 million for dedicated breast nurse specialists and $33 million for prostate nurse specialists.
However, Federal Government nurse funding has never been committed to better support bowel cancer patients during their treatment and care.
Every bowel cancer patient deserves to have access to a dedicated Bowel Care Nurse.
Your donation this June will have a direct impact, ensuring we can continue to provide practical and emotional support for the growing number of Australians affected by bowel cancer.
While championing what matters most to people affected by bowel cancer – access to a dedicated Bowel Care Nurse within hospitals throughout Australia.