Navigating cancer with personalised care
Dec 02, 2021
Since Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital opened its doors eight years ago, nurse Shelley Knight (pictured) has thrived helping grow the hospital’s cancer services and caring for patients.
“It’s very rewarding – the rapport you build with patients in this area, the deeper relationships – in a sense you’re their comfort blanket so you share a little bit of yourself with them,” she says.
Enriching her role as oncology services manager, Shelley is also working as a cancer care navigator at the hospital, coordinating all aspects of patients’ cancer care and being an easy-to-reach contact.
“I feel privileged to be able to journey with people, helping them understand their cancer treatment plan, answering questions, giving support and coordinating care so they and their loved ones can focus on what matters most.”
Shelley says patients receiving cancer treatment at Sunshine Coast University Private Hospital are generally able to see their oncologist more than in the public system, they avoid the waiting lists, and have greater continuity of care and streamlined transitions between services.
She has cared for patients from young adults to those in their nineties, with a fairly even number of males and females, and says it is such an individual journey.
“We care for patients with such a wide range of cancers here, and it’s so diverse with treatments – some patients have surgery, some chemotherapy, some radiotherapy, some a combination of treatments.
“People presume everyone who has treatment loses hair, but the majority don’t. And we have scalp cooling treatment to help maintain hair.”
Over the past eight years, Shelley has seen advancement in cancer treatment – including safety around prescribing and administering chemotherapy, and the use of drugs to minimise side effects.
“I think it’s the consistency of staff and very personalised care we offer that really sets us apart from other hospitals – and it’s great having clinical trials available on site.
“The clinical trials option means patients we’ve seen for a long time and who may be coming to their last line of treatment may be able to get on a trial in the same environment they’re familiar with, with the same staff they’ve built relationships with.”
Her team relocated from the hospital’s ground floor to a light-filled space on level 2 and Shelley explains the ‘journey tree’ mural in the unit’s centre.
“Most other cancer care units have patients ring a bell when they complete treatment but that can be confronting to some. So in our unit, patients can put their fingerprints on our journey tree mural any time to mark their journey.”