Cancer nursing should be moved from hospitals to the community

To provide more holistic care at home, nursing students need training in the right skills, say Kate de Lord and Susan Cooper.

To provide more holistic care at home, nursing students need training in the right skills, say Kate de Lord and Susan Cooper.

In recent years, a number of new systemic anti-cancer therapies (SACTs) have resulted in tremendous advances in the treatment of patients with cancer. However, treatment is just one of many considerations when caring for patients – their wellbeing throughout the cancer journey is vital.

Giving people the choice to be treated at home is an effective way to provide holistic care that puts patient wellbeing first, while using evidence-based practice to administer SACT. We believe that training more nurses to deliver this kind of care is a priority as they have a pivotal role in delivering services.

There is a shortage of skilled nurses and, in specialist areas such as chemotherapy, the need for more staff is critical. To address this skill gap, clinical homecare provider Healthcare at Home has partnered with Birmingham City University to develop a degree-level SACT programme for nurses.

The initiative is for nurses who do not have chemotherapy skills and who wish to develop their knowledge and practice.

The course is available, at this stage, for the company’s non-chemotherapy nurses. It is designed to provide them with the theory that underpins the delivery of holistic care to patients with cancer receiving SACT in a home setting. The first course began in October and the cohort is expected to complete in April 2016.

Applying skills to practice

Students will have the opportunity to augment a range of core nursing skills, underpinning physiology and psychology and their application to healthcare practice, which will contribute to their development as clinical practitioners delivering evidence-based care. They will be assessed by an oral examination, completion of a self-directed workbook, clinical placement and practical-based competencies.

On successful completion of the course they will be awarded 15 credits at level six.

As a degree-level course those enrolled have access to the university’s student support services, and can attend lectures on campus.

The clinical training provided for nurses is no different to that offered to hospital staff. The same clinical standards apply. However, additional considerations need to be taken into account when treating cancer patients at home with SACT.

Our nurses need to be knowledgeable, skilled and competent as they work autonomously and do not have the various layers of support available in hospital. Training is paramount to ensure provision of a safe, high-quality service. The course provides the theory for these considerations and, when qualified, nurses have a mentor who provides guidance and supervision as they learn.

Healthcare at Home treats more than 150,000 patients a year in the UK. Some patients tell us that having treatment at home offers the obvious benefit of not having to travel to hospital and risk cross-infection. Others value receiving care in the calm and familiar surroundings of home.

Giving more patients a choice about where they receive their treatment is the main reason we established the SACT course.

Find out more

A white paper, Building the Case for Clinical Care in the Home at Scale, explores five different models: home cancer care, end of life care, home treatment of long-term conditions, timely discharge from hospital and virtual wards.

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