RCN Nurse of the Year pioneers cancer ‘prehab’

Being diagnosed with cancer is traumatic enough, but being told you will need major surgery as part of your treatment only serves to increase the sense of foreboding and trepidation. Venetia Wynter-Blyth responded by developing a programme that has proved so successful that her patients’ experience of care has been transformed, and last week she was named RCN Nurse of the Year.

Ms Wynter-Blyth, part of a team at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London, created the PREPARE prehabilitation programme to help patients maximise their chances of a successful outcome. PREPARE is an acronym that stands for Physical activity, Remove bad habits, Eat well, Psychological wellbeing, Ask about medications, Respiratory exercises and Enhanced recovery.

Patients now have a deciding role over their own health outcome

In the nurse’s own words, this is how PREPARE came about: ‘Before we had this programme, patients would be diagnosed with cancer and told they needed major surgery. There was little or no structured support to help them prepare for the experience. This left a lot of patients feeling anxious and like they had no control over what was happening to them.

‘By working alongside patients, developing goals with them, and supporting them to reach these goals, it’s like we are on a journey together and patients now have a deciding role over their own health outcome.’ As you can read in this week’s issue, Ms Wynter-Blyth is passionate about putting patients in control of their own care, and has proved that such fine intentions can be turned into reality.

It is still early days, but so far 80 patients have used PREPARE and complications have been reduced, bed days have decreased and the programme is being expanded. Initial scepticism has been overcome and the entire team – including the medical consultants – are on board.

As one of the senior doctors in her team says, like most nurses Ms Wynter-Blyth is not ‘in it for the glory’, but she thoroughly deserves her success and the accolade of being RCN Nurse of the Year in the college’s centenary year.