Editorial

Be aware of the effect language and phrases can have on cancer patients

Healthcare professionals share their experiences as cancer patients and details of the RCNi Cancer Nursing Conference
Cancer words

Healthcare professionals share their experiences as cancer patients and details of the RCNi Cancer Nursing Conference

Whenever anyone asked if I was a I nurse Id say: Yes, but I know nothing about leukaemia.

'I may be different from those who want to know everything, but I made a conscious decision to just be a patient, only involving my professional knowledge once or twice. I trusted my team to do whats best for me. It was my way of surviving.

Dorthe Swaby-Larsen was a nurse consultant in emergency care at a London hospital when she was diagnosed in 2014 with acute promyelocytic leukaemia.

Ms Swaby-Larsen, along with Liz O'Riordan, a breast surgeon, and Jenny Lowe, a retired

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Healthcare professionals share their experiences as cancer patients and details of the RCNi Cancer Nursing Conference

Illustration of nurse seeing herself as a patient in a mirror
Picture: David Mitchell

 ‘Whenever anyone asked if I was a I nurse I’d say: “Yes, but I know nothing about leukaemia.”

'I may be different from those who want to know everything, but I made a conscious decision to just be a patient, only involving my professional knowledge once or twice. I trusted my team to do what’s best for me. It was my way of surviving.’

Dorthe Swaby-Larsen was a nurse consultant in emergency care at a London hospital when she was diagnosed in 2014 with acute promyelocytic leukaemia. 

Ms Swaby-Larsen, along with Liz O'Riordan, a breast surgeon, and Jenny Lowe, a retired nurse, both of whom were diagnosed with breast cancer, offer an insight into how cancer nurses can support fellow healthcare professionals diagnosed with the disease.

These healthcare professionals underline the fact that language and turn of phrase can have a huge impact. Ms Swaby-Larsen adds that it's okay to show emotions – patients don’t expect you to be superhuman.

They also speak candidly about negotiating the line between health professional and patient.

As Dr O'Riordan puts it: ‘In my career, I’ve consented thousands of people for surgery, talking to them about possible complications, but when you’re suddenly the patient it’s completely different.’

RCNi Cancer Nursing Conference

I am also thrilled to announce the fourth annual RCNi Cancer Nursing Conference.

Taking place in Birmingham on 6 May, the conference will focus on revolutionising cancer care, and cancer nurses will have the opportunity to learn about advances in treatment, new ways of working and improving patient experience.

‘Compassion fatigue’ has been cited as an occupational hazard for cancer nurses, so our programme also includes how employers can support their staff.

I do hope to see you there.

RCNi Cancer Nursing Conference

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