August 20, 2015

Lung Cancer Support Nurse Appointed

DSCF0631Lung Foundation Australia is thrilled to announce the appointment of Claire Mulvihill to the newly created position of Lung Cancer Support Nurse. This position is made possible through a successful application under the 2015 Supporting People with Cancer Grant, funded by Cancer Australia. Claire will be available to provide telephone support and information to patients and their families living with lung cancer, mesothelioma or a rarer thoracic cancer, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week. Although Claire is employed as our Lung Cancer Support Nurse, she has extensive nursing experience and will be able to answer other lung disease enquiries. To introduce this new position and to provide some background about Claire, she has kindly shared the following.

Tell us about your nursing roles before you joined the Lung Foundation?

I previously worked as a Lung Cancer Nurse Coordinator at Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide where I assisted in establishing the rapid access lung cancer clinic, an initiative of one of the respiratory consultants. The clinic provided a system for GPs to notify our hospital of an unconfirmed lung cancer that required quick action.

The role involved meeting patients with suspected lung cancer and guiding them through their diagnostic tests, following up once diagnosed, and helping the patient understand the multidisciplinary team’s (MDT) proposed treatment plan.

Patients are often overwhelmed by their diagnosis, and the information they are provided, coupled with the realisation their future has dramatically changed, is simply devastating. The support of the lung cancer nurse is vital at this point and complements the role of the physician. The nurse is able to be there for the patient and family and to hear and acknowledge their concerns. It is also important to form a trusted connection with the patient whilst working alongside and guiding them through the maze of referrals and varying treatment regimes that await them. I believe this is the gold standard of care we need to strive for to support our patients upon diagnosis.

What are your career highlights?

Overall, my career highlight was working with the respiratory team at Flinders Medical Centre who valued and recognised the importance of the Lung Cancer Nurse Coordinator and the impact the role made on direct patient care.

The focus on improving patient care looks at the needs of patients at diagnosis, through their treatments including supportive and palliative care when required. This was demonstrated in the introduction of the Home Pleural Effusion Program (HOPE) which I was fortunate to be involved in. This procedure enables patients who experience recurrent malignant pleural effusions (fluid around the lungs) to have a flexible silicone catheter or tube permanently inserted into their chest, effectively allowing the patient to drain the fluid whilst at home. This initiative demonstrated a significant improvement to the patients’ quality of life and helped avoid further hospital admissions. The HOPE program won a South Australia Health Award in the category of Enhanced Hospital Care last year.

What is the role of the Lung Cancer Support Nurse at Lung Foundation Australia?

I see my role as an important addition to the Information and Support Centre. I will be available to support lung cancer patients and their families who contact the Lung Foundation and require clinical support or have a clinical question regarding their diagnosis, treatment and care. I will use Lung Foundation Australia resources and provide clinical information and, when needed link patients with the care they need within their local community.

I will also make contact with the hospitals and cancer centres around Australia who have a dedicated lung cancer service. I will notify them of my role and let them know that I am available to assist their patients when discharged from the hospital service. Patients and their families often have questions or concerns after seeing their medical specialist and I’ll be able to answer clinical questions and hopefully reduce any concern or anxiety they are feeling.

How can a patient, carer or family member benefit from contacting you?

All patients and families living with lung cancer can benefit from phoning me for information, support and resources. The benefit of this phone service is that I can talk to patients around Australia and importantly those living in the rural and remote areas where services are sometimes not available. In my experience, patients really value talking to a health professional about their situation, diagnosis and concerns as well as receiving
up-to-date advice, information and resources to assist with their decisions.

I will ensure the information and support services offered by the Lung Foundation are received by patients diagnosed with lung cancer by reaching out to hospitals and cancer centres nationally and provide each service with evidence-based lung cancer resources. During these discussions, I will highlight that clinicians who identify any patient as vulnerable, isolated or living in a regional or rural location refer the patient directly to the Lung Foundation so I can follow up and ensure their needs are addressed and the best clinical support is provided.
I am looking forward to this fantastic opportunity, developing the role and connecting with clinicians and patients nationally who are affected by lung cancer as well as providing individualised clinical support. I’m
also excited to work with the dynamic staff at the Lung Foundation! Hope to speak with you soon.

You can contact Claire via phoning our Information and Support Centre on 1800 654 301 or email