Cancer care services face huge challenges post-pandemic

Nurses face a new level of challenges and many are at breaking point, reduced staffing levels and the challenges of complex systems only add to that pressure

A nurse talking to a patient who is sitting down with their arm on a pillow and attached to a monitor
Picture: Alamy

As a nurse who has worked in the NHS for more than 40 years, I have experienced numerous challenges, from service redesigns and management restructures to periods of financial pressures, but the situation post-pandemic takes them to a new level and the effect on the nursing workforce is extremely worrying.

Oncology nurses have always been strong and resilient in providing compassionate care for patients, but my conversations with front-line nurses indicate they are at breaking point.

Clinical pressures in the NHS and their effects on staff

In Medication errors: colour-coding no match for critical thinking , Liz Allibone, head of nursing at the Nightingale Academy at Guy’s & St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, discusses the importance of safety in relation to medication errors, while highlighting the challenges raised by complex systems and reduced staffing, and acknowledging that ‘nursing is regularly voted the most trusted profession’.

Although she focuses on medication errors, these issues apply to all aspects of nursing care and clinical management, reflecting current clinical pressures in NHS organisations and the effects on staff.

Nurses working in cancer care have always been mindful of the importance of good communication with patients and their family, often undertaking courses to enhance their communication skills.

Good communication and handling sensitive issues carefully

At the forefront of good communication is the ability to ask open questions and involve patients in decisions about their care, pick up patients’ cues, acknowledge psychological distress and show sensitivity when breaking bad news.

But, as Well-chosen words: how what you say affects patient outcomes highlights, more care is needed when discussing other sensitive issues with patients, such as diabetes and obesity, when poor verbal or non-verbal communication can have a negative effect.

Finally, the RCN Nursing Awards are open for entries. Cancer nurses will find a number of categories that are relevant to their work, including Team of the Year, Researcher of the Year and Innovations in your Specialty, so do take a look and consider applying. If you’re unsure of which category to enter, contact editor Jennifer Sprinks, to discuss your options. She would be delighted to hear from you.

Visit our awards site to find out more.

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