Tuesday 29th September 2015
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Autumn 2015
As you’ll know more than anyone, when people with cancer have access to professionals with the right skills, their individual needs are more likely to be met
Macmillan has been piloting a new support worker role that enables patients to self-assess using holistic needs assessment and directs them to support as appropriate.
In our experience, this also allows clinical nurse specialists (CNSs) to focus on care that requires specialist support.
We spoke with Nikki Snuggs, Macmillan CNS, and Patrycja Slyk, Macmillan One-to-One Support Worker, about their work together at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London.
Nikki (N): ‘The CNS role is about supporting people diagnosed with cancer, providing them with information and being available as a main point of contact. In addition to our clinical work, we may do administrative tasks too. Everyone agrees it’s an absolutely vital role for people who have cancer – but one that naturally poses challenges too.
‘The main difficulty historically is that we have a lot of patients and not many people in CNS roles. Traditionally, the CNS has always supported people at diagnosis. As people progress through treatment, however, I think it’s fair to say that our contact with them often decreases unless they are in great need. There are then other people who have just been diagnosed and need our attention.
‘Now that Patrycja is in our team, she’s able to help us meet more people’s needs at different stages – even after they have finished treatment. She’s able to be an extra visitor, an extra point of contact, and someone who can identify needs and signpost people to support.’
Patrycja (P): ‘My role involves working alongside Nikki and some of the tasks I do allow her to spend more time with people who need her specialist skills. I carry out administrative jobs, meet with patients during their treatment, enable them to self-assess using holistic needs assessment, and create a care plan (if one is required) while working with Nikki to make sure everything is in place.
‘I take calls, many of which I can deal with straight away, for example if the person needs to change or book an appointment. For any calls that require a nurse, I can send all the information to Nikki or other relevant colleagues.
‘I also help to organise Make Change Well, our health and well-being events for patients who have finished hospital-based treatment.’
N: ‘These health and well-being events are an example of something that simply wouldn’t happen without a support worker in the team. The nurses and I would have time to attend, but not to organise events like these, which require really thorough planning.’
P: ‘Working alongside Nikki has also given me massive personal development opportunities. My colleagues are always willing to help and every day brings something new. And Macmillan provides great training.’
N: ‘Patrycja joined us having been a healthcare assistant within a breast clinic, so she already had a lot of practical knowledge. Over time, Patrycja has built up even more experience and, as a team, we’ve become more confident in her taking over certain tasks. This was admittedly difficult for people at the beginning, but has ultimately had huge benefits for all of us.’
If you’d like to know more about the support worker role, contact your local Macmillan service development team.
Go to our In Focus section for other examples of assistant and support roles improving the care provided by cancer teams.
Photo: Nikki Snuggs, Macmillan CNS (right), and Patrycja Slyk, Macmillan One-to-One Support Worker