Career advice

Scholarship led to national roll out of an innovative communication tool for young people with cancer

Joanna Poole on why a Florence Nightingale Emerging Leaders Scholarship improved communication with patients and reinvigorated her career

Joanna Poole on why a Florence Nightingale Emerging Leaders Scholarship improved communication with patients and reinvigorated her career

I qualified as an adult nurse in September 2000 and for most of my career have worked in cancer settings. In January 2017, I began a Florence Nightingale Emerging Leaders Scholarship in partnership with the Teenage Cancer Trust, and I carried out my leadership programme at Harvard University in the United States.

An illustration to depict an integrated assessment mapping system. Picture: iStock

The scholarship was 12 months' long, and tailored to suit my learning and development needs. As part of my scholarship I had to complete a patient improvement project. The project had to be meaningful and show the impact it had on the patients and teams I worked with.

Throughout my scholarship I continued to work full time as a lead nurse covering the east midlands for Teenage Cancer Trust.

Care planning tool

A teenage and young adult team in the south west approached our division to pilot a communication tool called integrated assessment mapping (IAM). IAM is an electronic communication tool to help develop a care plan for the patient. The teenage and young adult team developed it and were using it successfully with 16-24 year olds with a diagnosis of cancer, but needed it to be piloted in a new region to obtain clean data.

We were excited about being the first region to pilot it. I decided to use the implementation of the IAM as part of my patient improvement project as the timescales of the pilot fitted with the scholarship.

The pilot ran from January to May 2017. Data were recorded at baseline, mid-point and the end using a questionnaire for staff and patients with open questions. The data showed that all members of the multidisciplinary team were more engaged in discussions about patients.

At the beginning of the pilot, discussions about patients were medically focused, however end data showed that discussions became more holistic and inclusive of other members of the multidisciplinary team, such as social and youth workers. The patient feedback was limited, however due to the short timeframes we were working with and the patient group’s age range (16-24) this was to be expected.

National roll out

Following the success of the pilot, the IAM portal has been permanently implemented in the east midlands region. Teenage Cancer Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support have taken on the funding of IAM and it is being rolled out nationally to other teenage and young adult services.

The scholarship gave me the skills and insights to navigate through some difficult challenges throughout the project. The foundation transformed my approach on a personal and professional level, and gave me insight in how I work with other people. This knowledge helped me to prepare the team to engage with the project, engage key stakeholders and think about how to evaluate practice, to ensure the project was meaningful to patients.

My scholarship and Harvard University experience has given me valuable insights in my own areas of development. I had training and coaching to enhance my leadership capabilities and have new skills to be able to progress in my profession.

I feel invigorated to support and enable my nursing colleagues to do the best they can for our patients.

Since completing my scholarship I am now working as deputy head of nursing in surgery at University Hospitals of Bristol. 

About the author

Joanna Poole is the deputy head of nursing, surgical division, at University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust

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