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Claire's story

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Claire's story

Claire Kelly counts herself as a very fortunate person.  As the Private Care Coordinator for Mater Cancer Care Centre she loves her job and the positive impact she can have on patient care.

“I love it because everyone is unique and has a story.  I do a lot of listening in my role.  There is also a big component of education and support but the most important part is really getting to understand who that person is and what is important to them, that is the part that really makes a difference,” Claire said.

“It’s about being able to join the dots, those links in the chain.  Sometimes the tiniest link may have nothing to do with treatment or symptoms but it can have a significant impact on the way we deliver care and the patient experience.  Someone may have complex health problems that go alongside their cancer treatment and need careful monitoring, or may already be experiencing social issues which become exacerbated with a cancer diagnosis.”

The example Claire provides is of a young person diagnosed with cancer.  In meeting him on his first visit to MCCC, Claire discovers that last year the patient lost his wife to cancer and offers him the appropriate support and referrals.  It is a week later that Claire passes this same patient at the MCCC reception and stops to talk to him that he mentions in passing that he has been coughing up blood.  Claire immediately arranges to speak to his oncologist and while the patient is waiting for admission Claire notices that the he is becoming increasingly anxious.  It occurs to her that his wife may well have been a patient on the same ward to which he is about to be admitted and takes the time to call the ward and speak to the nursing staff.  They remember the patient’s wife well and are grateful that Claire has taken the time to ‘join the dots’ for them. 

“Although this has no impact on that patient’s course of treatment or his symptoms, it does ensure that the team providing his care are aware of his unique circumstances and are sensitive to this on his admission,” Claire said.

“Patients don’t necessarily want a full-on emotional chat every time they come in, but just to know you’re here, to provide that continuity, to build a rapport, to build trust means that the patient then has the ability to share things with you that perhaps they wouldn’t share ordinarily.  I also find that they are more likely to make contact when they are home and new symptoms arise. This can be critical for our oncology patients who are at risk of specific oncology complications.”

Claire started her role as Care Coordinator at MCCC in 2015 as a part-time role.  For the past few months, Claire has been able to take her role full-time, a move she says was critical.

“Being full-time enables me to have a spread across the service.  It gives me the opportunity to be able to pop over and see one of our complex patients if I know they’ve been admitted and be a familiar face to them and to provide continuity of care, which has been shown to reduce distress.”

Claire aims to see all private patients at the beginning of their chemotherapy treatment. 

“I like to take the time to understand who this person is and what they’ll need so the team can provide a complete individualised, patient centred, holistic care plan.

“It’s important to find out a person’s background—are they alone, do they have children, are they caring for someone at home, do they have a chronic condition?  All these factors are important and also understanding their specific goals so that we can build these into the plan of care, as far as possible.

“I liaise a lot with the doctors, community services and work extremely closely with the allied health team and pastoral care to refer patients to the services that can best support them, at the right time and, where possible, before potential problems arise.”

When Claire meets a patient initially she assesses the complexity of care required for the individual patient and those with a high level of complexity will be seen by Claire at each visit to Mater.

Patients who develop new complex problems (physical, emotional, practical) throughout their treatment will be referred to Claire by the treatment nurses in MCCC, ensuring they receive the support they need at the right time.

“Most people struggle to understand the complexity of healthcare, let alone with a cancer diagnosis.  Many cancer patients go through multiple areas of treatment—surgery, radiation and chemotherapy—and the thing most people complain about is lack of communication between health professionals and departments, so if I can help untangle that complexity and provide a guiding hand along the way, then I feel like I’ve made a difference,” Claire said.

Claire is no newcomer to cancer care.  She has been nursing in oncology and palliative care since 1991 and has worked in large oncology centres in the UK including positions as Director of Nursing.  She was also acknowledged by the Royal College of Nursing as one of the Top 10 cancer nurses in the UK.

“I came to Australia nine years ago and worked in a range of jobs in cancer and palliative care, but I knew what role I was after.  Cancer Coordinator jobs are rare and highly sought after so I don’t take this role lightly.  My job is an absolute pleasure and privilege, and I know that I am lucky to have such a fulfilling and diverse role. I like to think I am also here for the team and enjoy supporting and encouraging some of the more junior nurses to advance their practice. 

“Being full-time now, I love that I’m able to give my contact card to a patient and say to them ‘call me if you have any questions, if you’re having a bad day’ and I can be that conduit to other services to get them the help and support they might need.

“Often the work I do is not clinical, even though I am constantly using my clinical skills and judgement to determine or prevent clinical problems, sometimes I just listen and provide a friendly, familiar face which really can mean a lot to our patients.”

In the Mercy tradition, Mater is committed to meeting the healthcare needs of the community through an integrated approach to health, education and research which is focused on delivering the highest quality of care for our patients.

Posted: 19/07/2017 10:35:05 AM by News @ Mater | with 3 comments

Tags: Mater Cancer Care Centre, Mission, The Heart of Mater

What a great read. I totally agree with a high need of such roles, and not only for cancer patients.

I am an RN and I build the entire private practice based on this idea : advocate , educate, navigate.
14/08/2017 11:40:00 AM

Jackie Morgan
Good on you Claire, couldn't think of anyone more suited to this role
20/07/2017 8:10:27 AM

A truly inspiring and uplifting story. Claire is certainly a blessing and a gift to the many people
A truly inspiring and uplifting story. Claire is certainly a blessing and a gift to the many people she has contact with and I honestly do not know how people like Claire are able to do a job such as this. It is heart-warming and beautiful and with all the troubles we face in the world today it is so uplifting to read stories such as Claire's.
I am also proud to call her my sister xx
19/07/2017 7:43:12 PM

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