Dr Vanessa Brunelli

Queensland University of Technology

For Dr Vanessa Brunelli, research means the ability to develop a better understanding of the needs and wants of people living with lung cancer.

Dr Vanessa Brunelli PhD is a Research Fellow in Lung Cancer at the Queensland University of Technology. Driven by a long clinical career in both the public and private oncology settings, Dr Brunelli’s research program centres on improving the disease experience for people living with lung cancer, particularly through strategic cross-sector initiatives that aim to inform cancer nursing workforce policy. In her home time and although a rare occurrence, she loves camping with her husband and two dogs, the more rural and remote, the better.

The issue being addressed
In Australia, there are as few as 12 full-time equivalent specialist lung cancer nurses, compared to over 440 specialist breast cancer nurses. This means that the majority of people living with lung cancer will not have access to a specialist lung cancer nurse. This is despite research that shows that people who have access to a specialist nurse are 34% more likely to receive treatment than those who do not, are more likely to have timely access to treatment and anti-cancer therapy and have improved health-related quality of life. There is limited investment to increase this workforce capacity. The challenge to date is the limited consistent
evidence on the specialist lung cancer nurse role and practices in the Australian context.

Purpose of the research
Dr Brunelli’s research represents a vital step towards improving access to life-changing care for Australians living with lung cancer. She is working with nursing, medical and allied health experts and consumer advocates across the nation to develop consistent evidence about the role and core supportive care practices of specialist lung cancer nurses. An expectations, standards and performance practice framework, developed and piloted by Dr Brunelli in discrete nursing contexts, provides the digital tool to collect specialist lung cancer nurse activity across the clinical pathway. This evidence will inform future large-scale projects which will implement and evaluate specialist lung cancer nurse positions in the Australian health care system. Essentially, the evidence developed in this research will support investment in increasing the specialist lung cancer nurse workforce, ensuring people receive the timely, coordinated and continuous care they deserve.

Dr Brunelli hopes that in the future every person diagnosed with lung cancer will be referred to a specialist lung cancer nurse at the time of their diagnosis.

Why invest in lung cancer research?
Despite the high unmet needs of people living with lung cancer, research dollars in lung cancer are remarkably low compared to other cancers. People living with lung cancer deserve better. Nurse-led research contributes to the evidence base on the quality and safety of care that people receive, ultimately improving patient outcomes. Investing in research changes the way patients are supported and will ultimately change people’s lives.

“It’s my hope that this research will allow all people living with lung cancer to receive timely, coordinated and continuous care by a dedicated specialist lung cancer nurse. People living with lung cancer deserve the same support and opportunities as those impacted by other commonly diagnosed cancers.”

Research saves lives and gives hope for a cure.
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