June 27, 2012

2008 Oct 29 – 20 people a day die – not enough specialist nurses


The Australian Lung Foundation

20 people a day die – not enough specialist nurses

"There aren’t enough lung cancer nurses compared to the number of patients diagnosed, despite 20 people a day dying from lung cancer which is the biggest cancer killer and the third highest cause of all deaths in Australia," said Associate Professor Matthew Peters, Chairman of the Australian Lung Foundation’s New South Wales State Council.

It has been proven that patients who are diagnosed with cancer and who have a disease specialist nurse to support them are better able to deal with their condition. (The Florence Nightingale School of Nursing & Midwifery, March 2002)

Australia has a very dedicated and highly educated coterie of lung nurses – however, there are not enough of them and nor is there professional development that is appropriate.

"Currently, access to a lung cancer nurse depends largely on where you live. Some patients will never see one," A/Prof Peters said.

"Without access to lung cancer nurses, patients suffer more as they do not have access to the in-depth nursing knowledge, care and support that lung cancer specialist nurses can provide. The disease itself can also have a devastating impact on the physical, social, psychological, emotional and spiritual dimensions of the patient and their families,’ said A/Prof Peters.

Ms Liz Simon, a lung cancer patient, cannot stress too strongly how vital it is to be heard by the medical profession and specialist lung cancer nurses are the critical link between us.

‘With the shock of initial diagnosis there is a feeling of hopping onto a conveyor belt which overwhelms and causes distress and this is at a time where all decisions made are crucial to our future survival. Yet we feel critically disempowered,’ Ms Simon said.

Lung cancer kills more than 7,300 Australians people every year, and makes up 5.5% of all deaths in Australia, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2006 statistics. More than 9,000 people are newly diagnosed with lung cancer every year.

Activities that could assist in the raising the profile of lung cancer nurses and their recruitment and retention could include:

a) A study into the role that a lung cancer nurse plays in the patient’s lung cancer journey;
b) Production of competency standards and review of educational standards specifically relating to Specialist Lung Nurses (SLN) in Australia.
c) Development and implementation of a Lung Care Nurse Practicum in collaboration with the appropriate body which would incorporate SLN Competency Standards referred to above.

SLN’s specialise in caring for patients with a diagnosis of lung cancer and assist with:

– emotional and social support to the patient and their family
– information on the diagnosis and treatments – ie: reputable websites to visit, information brochures etc
– continuity in care, with less traditional boundaries and prompt referral to other members of the multi-disciplinary team
– improved communication between the healthcare teams and yourself
– queries patients, carers and families may have regarding any part of the care and treatment pathway
– finding the most appropriate services to help patients, carers and families.

‘Given that lung cancer kills more people that prostate cancer and breast cancer combined, it is of critical importance that appropriate training and recognition of specialist lung cancer nurses is implemented as a matter of urgency,’ said A/Prof Peters.