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Meet Laura Rodwell, the Nurse Unit Manager of the Cancer Care Centre for Mater Hospital in South Brisbane, she shares her experience of running a cancer care centre, what a typical day involves and the special things she and her team do for their patients.
Laura explains she and her team deliver a duel service through the public and private cancer care clinics to between 80 – 140 patients each day, with 99 per cent receiving treatment on the same day as their consultation.
“We are not just about chemotherapy, we offer a range of different therapeutic treatments including apheresis preparation for stem cell transplant, management of chronic haematology patients and other treatments for non-cancer related malignancies and diseases,” Laura said.
“Patients can visit us at any stage of their cancer journey and the team share care between the surgical, radiation and oncology specialities. We see them through chemotherapy, radiation, long term follow-up, reoccurrence and survival.
“We see patients from all walks of life with different cancers at different stages, many patients do really well and it’s so pleasing to see them finish their treatment and begin to get back to their normal lives.”
Laura believes the team makes the Cancer Care Centre a special place as they consistently go above and beyond for their patients.
“Recently our team created a “Vine of Life” where patients mark a special message or milestone on a leaf and add it to the vine, this is not just to celebrate when a patient is cancer free but any milestone they wish to celebrate during their journey,” Laura said.
“Another example is we had a particularly complex case with gentleman some time ago, he was in his 40’s and was battling cancer but also had intellectual disabilities.
“Our team worked closely with his family to ensure he received consistent and appropriate care, having the same nursing team look after him while he was here. We also learned he loved music and was comforted by us singing to him and he enjoyed playing with trains which was supported by the Occupational Therapy team.
“On his last day we bought him a cake and gifted him a train with his initials on it and all sang to him. It was a wonderful feeling to be able to provide consistent care to him and his family during such a difficult time.”
Laura explains the last year has been particularly difficult for both cancer patients and the care teams due to the pandemic.
“We have seen right across the country people have not been engaging with their primary care and we have seen patients presenting to us with more advanced cancers which is devastating,” Laura said.
“We have seen our patients are more anxious due to the fear and uncertainty around COVID.
Our team also had to work hard on helping patients who were unwell and needed to be admitted to hospital as they did not want to enter the hospital wards.
“The visitor restrictions have also been tough as some patients absolutely need an army to support them when they receive bad news. It was a very difficult time and I am very proud of how our teams pulled together to support our patients.”
Laura says she wishes people knew the centre was a bright and friendly place to be and the team believes that while a patient may only come through for a short period of time, the impact will stay with them for the rest of their lives.
“We create unique relationships with our patients, we’re very bonded with them and this is a very rewarding, place to work. I wish our inpatient colleagues did get to see the happy moments where we tell patients they are cancer free and are able to discharge them,” Laura said.
“So much in cancer care has changed in the last 10 years, there are more non chemotherapy treatments, we can do scalp cooling for some patients, so they don’t lose their hair and people are living longer with their cancers
“Because people are living longer than ever before with cancer their care is becoming a long-term chronic condition which we can manage. For our patients who keep coming back to us we become like a second family. It’s a privilege to be part of their lives.”
To find out more about Mater’s Cancer Care Centres please visit our website, https://www.mater.org.au/health/services/mater-cancer-care-centre
07 3163 1524
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