Colorectal Cancer Nurse Specialist Julie Williams on why she changed her approach
julie williams index
In 2016, we held a health and wellbeing event for bowel cancer patients at the Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust. People who had completed treatment in the previous year were invited and around 70 patients and carers attended. The event took many months of planning and required significant funding. We had a variety of speakers including a dietician, a physiotherapist and a bowel cancer survivor. The talks were followed by lunch and an information fair put on by local and national charities.
Listening to feedback
Feedback showed that the event had given people more confidence in their ability to self-manage their symptoms, lead healthier lifestyles and cope with the emotional impact of cancer treatment. Many people enjoyed sharing their experiences. One of our attendees said, ‘It was reassuring to meet people on the road to recovery. It was nice to speak to someone who understands how I feel.’
However, there was still room for improvement. We had chosen a lecture theatre as a venue, which did not make for the relaxed, informal atmosphere we had hoped for. Patients felt unable to ask questions in front of such a large audience.
Some people found the PowerPoint presentations tiring and would have preferred more time to sit and share with others. I felt that people who had finished treatment more than six months ago would have benefitted from attending the event closer to the end of their treatment.
A new approach
It was clear that a large-scale event like this was unsustainable. First, I changed the name from ‘event’ to ‘meeting’ so as not to exceed expectations. As we already had an existing stoma support group who met every three months at a local hotel, I decided to use this time and space for a new format of health and wellbeing meeting.
In March 2017, I invited 20 patients who had recently finished treatment. Half of those attended. Some came on their own, and others brought a friend or partner.
The two-hour meeting did not include lunch, PowerPoint presentations or stalls. As well as attending myself, I also invited the physiotherapist and a former patient who had previously attended and were well-received. We all sat round one table with a cup of tea and biscuits. We talked, with each person sharing their worries and concerns.
Information and resources were provided by our Macmillan information and support centre manager and a psychological therapist. Patients also had a one-to-one consultation with the experts for individualised support. The feedback was extremely positive and we aim to build on this format in the future.
This shows us that a health and wellbeing event does not have to be complicated, expensive or largescale. Regular informal meetings can also achieve the same objective of helping cancer survivors lead healthy, active lives.
Colorectal Clinical Nurse Specialist
Pennine Acute Hospitals Trust
This article was featured in Mac Voice, our quarterly magazine for Macmillan health and social care professionals, showcasing their work and sharing good practice. Want to read more like this? Check the archives for more articles.