Over 1,000 patients benefitting from NI's only lymphoma CNS thanks to Friends of the Cancer Centre

Monday, 21 September 2015

Over 1,000 local lymphoma patients are benefiting from Northern Ireland’s first and only lymphoma clinical nurse specialist thanks to Friends of the Cancer Centre.


Friends of the Cancer Centre, based at the heart of the Cancer Centre at Belfast City Hospital, has invested in local nursing by funding Northern Ireland’s first and only clinical nurse specialist (CNS) in one of the UK’s most common cancer areas.  The news comes as Northern Ireland marks Blood Cancer Awareness Month this September.  Friends of the Cancer Centre’s new CNS, Laura Croan, has been in post for one year, playing a pivotal role in patient care.  As a CNS, Laura provides advanced nursing care for patients and is certified to carry out many of the same clinical procedures as a doctor, including prescribing and administering certain types of chemotherapy.  Not only has Laura seen over 1,000 people in the first 12 months of her post, but she is also set to reduce consultant waiting lists by over 400 people per year when she establishes her own nurse led clinic in the coming months. This will have a significant impact on patient waiting times and increase the overall number of lymphoma patients seen each year in Northern Ireland. 


Commenting on the importance of the post, Colleen Shaw, chief executive of Friends of the Cancer Centre, said:


“Friends of the Cancer Centre is committed to providing local cancer patients with the best care possible and through our Clinical Nurse Specialist Programme we already fund two specialist nurses, one in breast cancer and one dedicated to teenagers and young adults.  With over 350 people being diagnosed with lymphoma in Northern Ireland every year and with thousands of people living with the disease every day, being able to provide them with their own dedicated nurse for the very first time is a huge step forward. 


“Our lymphoma CNS now acts as the lynchpin between the various teams involved in a patient’s treatment, as well as acting as a central point of contact for the patient to turn to at any time, often for emotional support.  The expert and advanced training of our clinical nurse specialists is very significant and when combined with the effectiveness of the nurse led clinic, which Laura will be launching in the coming months, the additional benefits that our CNS brings to patients, consultants and the wider hospital community are priceless.”


In addition to its Clinical Nurse Specialist Programme which funds nursing posts within the Cancer Centre, Friends of the Cancer Centre is also investing in the training and development of local nurses through its pilot Clinical Nurse Specialist Training Programme.  The training programme, the first of its kind in Northern Ireland, is providing senior nurse’s in the Cancer Centre with the expert and specific training they need to become a clinical nurse specialist.  This advance training will allow them to apply for future CNS posts when they become available and to start the new post immediately without having to undergo training when in post.


Commenting on the challenges and successes of her new role, Friends of the Cancer Centre’s clinical nurse specialist for lymphoma, Laura Croan, said:


“Despite being one of the most common forms of cancer in Northern Ireland, lymphoma is

one of the lesser known cancer areas and the lack of understanding about this type of cancer has been one of the biggest challenges of my role.  My first job when meeting a new patient is to educate and inform.  Arming people with factual information on their own particular cancer and their treatment path is a powerful thing and it can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety. 


“For me, one of the most valuable aspects of the CNS role is that I can build and develop a relationship with my patients and bring some consistency to their patient experience.  During diagnosis and treatment a patient may see a number of doctors and specialists, but my role enables me to become that regular face they see on each hospital visit and that shoulder to rely on when things get tough.  My post is fully funded by Friends of the Cancer Centre and the fact that people across Northern Ireland who have raised money for the charity have made this post possible makes me love and appreciate my work even more.  I feel really proud to wear my Friends of the Cancer Centre badge – it’s my badge of honour.”

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