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The choice to start my postgraduate studies with the Australian College of Nursing (ACN) was an easy one. ACN is renowned for its Graduate Certificate in Breast Cancer Nursing, which is delivered online in a fresh and interactive learning platform. The course encouraged collaboration and soon started to provide me with the tools I required to progress my knowledge and lead senior nurses in the field. My course units comprised leadership, professional practice, breast cancer nursing principles, an elective on cancer care principles, and survivorship across the care continuum.
Prior to starting my role in breast cancer nursing, I had been an oncology nurse for ten years. As I started to work more with people experiencing a breast cancer diagnosis, it became clear that this was an increasingly specialised practice with expert nurses caring for a diverse population with individual and complex needs. Hence the urge to further my knowledge through study, which was additionally fuelled by the exceptional support received from both fellow students and tutors I met along the way.
The Graduate Certificate in Breast Cancer Nursing enabled me to gain the skills and knowledge needed to expertly care for breast cancer patients. There was problem-solving and collaboration through online forums, videos, and peer feedback. These were all tools that continued to flow into my practice, which requires a high level of knowledge, confidence, humility, humanity, and empathy.
Information and tutoring were provided in a way that allowed students to explore and transition learning into practice seamlessly. One of the most beneficial tools utilised was the McGrath Model of care, a comprehensive tool which guides nurses along the patient care continuum and acknowledges the many different phases that a person experiencing a breast cancer diagnosis may face.
The course also allowed me to collate relevant nursing tools and evaluate them, whilst also creating tools of my own. This enabled me to provide a high level of care to patients and contribute towards learning for nursing colleagues. There was also an opportunity to utilise reflection and identify gaps in my own practice, allowing me to improve my skills and knowledge as a Breast Cancer Nurse.
Throughout the course and my practice over a twelve-month period, it was clear that this patient cohort required a high level of care from multiple health care providers. Through my studies, it became apparent that the role of a Breast Care Nurse, like their patients, is multifaceted.
Caring for patients dealing with breast cancer requires professionalism, knowledge, and a patient-centred attitude, with the need for care to be provided in a manner that is accessible, culturally appropriate, patient informed, and practical to enable positive health outcomes. Alongside these revelations, it encouraged an inquisitive mindset, something that was most valuable in a nursing management role and allowed me to find grounding as a manager to seek and provide informed direction to a team.
The Graduate Certificate in Breast Cancer Nursing has been invaluable to my practice and is a great addition to my knowledge and skills as a senior nurse. Despite the course being challenging at times with a full-time career, it gave me the opportunity to perfect my time management skills, work on collaborative practice and gain an in-depth insight into the world of breast cancer and the people it affects. The course continues to help me to navigate challenging psychosocial situations with patients and their families, improving my level of care coordination, whilst fostering the high level of humanity and empathy that patients require.
The various units of study offered gave a holistic understanding of what it meant to be a Breast Cancer Nurse, and a nurse in a leadership role. I would highly encourage anyone who is thinking about signing on for this postgraduate course to do so. Breast cancer nursing is an area which continues to grow and has many areas to explore and diversify in.
With patient needs becoming increasingly complex and treatments specialised and individualised, it is imperative that we encourage nurses with an interest in this area of nursing to further their education and pursue their passion in a supported way. As nurses it is important that we continue to work together and take on new challenges, as we strive for equitable and excellent health outcomes for all patients experiencing a breast cancer diagnosis.
Jess Henry MACN, RN, GradCertBreastCancerNsg, GradCertCanc/PCN
After graduating from her Bachelor of Nursing at the Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology, Jessica has been in healthcare as a Registered Nurse for twelve years and recently completed her Graduate Certificate in Breast Cancer Nursing. She believes that humanity and kindness are key ingredients for meaningful patient care and also team leadership, something which she thoroughly enjoys utilizing in her everyday practice. In her spare time, you will find her immersed in music and books, and enjoying the simple things such as going for walks with friends – a key to maintaining her work/life balance.