Monday 10th September 2012
Therapies Service Manager Helen Tyler shares how volunteers are helping people self-manage their cancer.
The Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff has successfully completed a pilot project as one of the Health and Wellbeing Clinic test sites for the National Cancer Survivorship Initiative. Internal and external evaluation, during and at the end of the project, demonstrated significant improvement in the ability of people with cancer to self-manage their condition and the project work is now being embedded into practice.
Empowering patients, by making them more knowledgeable about their condition and how to deal with the effects of the disease and its treatment, develops their confidence. This leads to reduced anxiety and more appropriate use of services.
Health and well-being group sessions are run throughout South East Wales and are open to any person with cancer regardless of their tumour site or stage on the cancer pathway. The information patients receive is based around the eight domains of cancer rehabilitation:
The sessions are led by trained volunteers, all of whom have had a personal experience of cancer as a patient or as a carer of a person with cancer.
The sessions are free and run for around two hours at many community venues within the region.
At the end of the discussion patients are invited to take part in a relaxation technique and systematic focusing session. The participants are provided with a handbook containing all the advice that has been delivered in the session, which can be used for future reference, along with a directory containing useful contacts.
Although the session is led by the volunteers, who provide advice and information on basic healthcare and well-being, the structure of the session encourages patient participation. The interaction between patients and volunteers in a supportive environment helps patients develop the ability to self-manage their condition.
The selection and training of the volunteers, including ongoing competency checks and support, is provided by Sue Acreman, Consultant Allied Health Professional, who specialises in cancer rehabilitation and myself, an experienced physiotherapist and therapies manager.
The trained volunteers are aware of their boundaries and limitations, and can signpost the patients back to the healthcare team for more complex care if required.
Results demonstrate that 80% of those who attend the sessions are enabled to self-manage if given basic information, leaving 20% requiring rehabilitation interventions from allied health professionals, such as dietitians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech and language therapists.
1. NCCN 2002 (National Comprehensive Cancer Network (Canada)).