A credit to cancer care
In the feature on page 10 of the March issue of RCN Bulletin, radiotherapy nurse Ellen Trueman describes what drove her to set up a supportive care lounge for outpatients receiving treatment at the cancer unit where she works.
Ellen’s passion and innovative approach led her colleagues at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust to nominate her for the cancer nurse leader category in the Nursing Times awards, a title she went on to win in November last year.
The award was one of two Ellen was given in 2011 as she also helped to design and develop a radiotherapy skin reaction toolkit that won a team scholarship from the Mölnycke Wound Academy.
Ellen says she is not a scientific person but is committed to developing ways to improve care. “What we do is based on what we see and what patients tell us, through feedback,” she says. “Patient experience is the key thing. The only way that you find out about patient experience is by watching and asking and listening. I truly believe that any improvements to comfort, no matter how small, can enhance patient outcomes.”
Ellen’s commitment to nursing is not just confined to her professional career. In 2008 she was inspired to take time out from her paid duties to go and work as a volunteer at a small cancer hospital in Kingston, Jamaica. Beginning by taking a short spell of annual leave, Ellen eventually returned on a career break to spend six months there.
“I’m the sort of person who thinks that if I can do something now then I will. The people that I see often don’t have time to think should I or shouldn’t I. We all think that we’re going to carry on going but when you suddenly know that your time is limited, how are you supposed to decide what to do with that time?
“My experience in Jamaica strengthened my ability to take life as it comes and act rather that sit back. In developing countries the attitude is different because day to day life is so much harder. Many people with cancer can’t even afford to visit a doctor for diagnosis or pay for treatment, their concerns focus on getting food on the table for today.
“People often seemed more accepting of their place in the circle of life. They don’t have the same fear as us when they know the end is in sight. It was enlightening to see other cultures dealing with these issues. There wasn’t an automatic ‘why me’ type response.
“I also believe working in a developing country has helped me to learn how to be more innovative and economical with limited resources. You don’t need a huge number of expensive resources to make a difference to someone’s life.”