- Where my cancer journey started
My name is Merryn Barclay and I am currently ¾ of the way through my Graduate Certificate in Cancer Nursing at The Australian College of Nursing (ACN). I have always had an interest in cancer nursing which developed from my experience as a graduate nurse and has only continued to grow after losing my mother to brain cancer, whilst I was completing my bachelor’s degree at the age of 22. During my mother’s journey I was able to see how nurses could have such a positive impact on a person affected by cancer and have the ability to improve their cancer experience. During my mother’s battle I was able to experience first hand the difficulty of managing the side effects of cancer at home and just how important education is for the patient and family to receive in order to minimise feelings of fear and anxiety after leaving the hospital.
I still remember when my mother would have episodes of confusion at home where she would become quite aggressive and upset. Due to her brain tumour, she was also very unsteady on her feet making it difficult to ensure her safety during these times. As her carer, I was unsure of what to do and who to contact. We had been provided a number for a nurse to call if we had any issues at home, however this number was unreachable after 5pm. After a constant hour of trying to settle my mother down we called an ambulance for assistance. After arriving at the hospital my mother was provided with additional medication to use to try and reduce these episodes in the future.
I just remember feeling so helpless and scared. I did not feel competent in my ability to manage my mother at home during this time and was not provided enough education in regards to managing any of these potential side effects. I remember thinking, how did I not ask all these questions after my mother was diagnosed before leaving the hospital.
The overall experiences we received from nursing staff varied greatly, with some aspects of her care and journey very positive, however I believe there were many areas that could have been improved.
- Why complete a postgraduate qualification?
I am currently the Associate Nurse Unit Manager of the Ambulatory Cancer Services at Western Health. I have been working in cancer services for the past five years and believe I have developed the fundamentals from ward experience to be competent in my job. I do believe in order to develop myself further and become a real specialist in my field, further education is required to extend my cancer knowledge.
I was a bit daunted about the idea of going back to study, as I have not written an essay or referenced in five years! However, I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience going back to study so far. I chose ACN as it offered a completely online course for Cancer Nursing which suited my work-life balance. I have never studied online before which was another challenge, however I have found accessing the resources and content for my subjects effortless.
I have really enjoyed the peer discussions and being able to engage with nurses from around Australia who have all had varying experiences and follow different policies around cancer care. The content we have covered so far has provided me with a deeper understanding of the pathophysiology around a cancer diagnosis, along with the holistic approach required to care for cancer sufferers. I have further discovered a range of resources that I did not utilise before studying and feel I am able to critically think and apply my new found knowledge into improving the care of my patients.
- What do I want to achieve?
My vision as a cancer nurse is to provide consistent, high quality care that is accessible to all. I want to empower our nurses to provide high quality care and for our patients to be involved in their treatment and management. I want our unit to be able to provide high quality education and care to all our patients, ensuring that they understand how to manage any situations that may arise during their journey.
Due to the knowledge and experience that I have received so far, I believe I have the motivation and confidence to be able to make the changes required in our hospital to improve the experience of cancer sufferers.
Author: Merryn Barclay