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Speaking about the motivation behind creating the course, Claire says, ‘We realised that although there’s a lot of training and development to prepare clinical staff for coming into contact with people affected by cancer, there isn’t much for non-clinical members of staff.’
An audit had also highlighted that people with cancer are treated throughout the hospital and not on one specialist ward. This reinforced the need for all staff to attend the course.
‘We wanted them to have a basic understanding of what cancer is, why it happens, and about topics like cancer prevention and screening.’
The course runs for one day a week over five weeks, with the fourth session spent at a cancer centre. Various topics are covered, including: what cancer is, what causes it, which cancers are most common in the UK, and how cancer is diagnosed and treated.
Staff attending include receptionists, administrative staff, wards clerks and many other roles.
‘We talk about the holistic needs of the patient, survivorship and people with advanced cancer,’ says Claire. ‘We also teach communication skills, which is important because if someone turns up to an appointment and doesn't have a good experience, it can be what they remember.’
‘Often it’s not the clinical staff that people with cancer meet and ask questions to. Some patients can be understandably very anxious and fraught, and the course gives staff an understanding of why that is and how to deal with those situations.’
Staff have been eager to sign up for the scheme and evaluations have been very positive. It has improved communication across the network and staff enjoy meeting colleagues in different hospitals.
Each year, a different hospital within the network holds the course. Because it’s taught on a voluntary basis by clinical staff from the hospitals, there are no funding issues. Line managers do however need to agree for their staff to take the required time to complete the course.
‘We now have waiting lists; it’s really popular. There are four hospitals within our network (the Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire Cancer Network|) and five places for each trust. These are all fully booked.’
Looking to the future of the programme, Claire says, ‘Ideally, we’d like to run it twice a year and get every non-clinical member of staff on it.’
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