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Caring for the community

Cancer Society supportive care nurses provide vital help to people when they need it most.
Tammy Burgess, supportive care nurse in the Western Bay of Plenty, gives us an insight into her day.

8.30am Making contact

Tammy starts her day getting in touch with clients on the phone and arranging a time to meet.

Waiting can be a big part of the cancer experience, whether it’s waiting for specialist appointments, treatments or test results. It’s comforting to know that most people can expect to hear from their local Cancer Society supportive care nurse within days of a referral.

Many referrals come from medical practitioners, but self-referrals are welcome. Anyone impacted by a cancer diagnosis can contact the Cancer Society for support at any time.

9.00am A special delivery

Delicious meals, delivered to the door, are a lifeline for people undergoing cancer treatment.

Many people struggle with side effects like loss of appetite, mouth or neck pain and fatigue.

Heat-and-eat meals take the stress out of meal times and ensure clients and their carers get the nutrition they need to be well. And it’s another way Tammy can check in with clients and have a chat about how they’re coping.

10.00am Support group

Tammy heads to a local café to facilitate a support group.

Support groups are held in a relaxed community setting and provide an opportunity to share experiences and knowledge in a supportive environment.

They’re open to people with any type of cancer, whether newly diagnosed, undergoing treatment or at the end of treatment, ensuring people with cancer and their carers have the benefit of mutual support from others who have been on a similar journey.

11.30am Getting the word out

A monthly e-newsletter to clients provides practical advice and lets them know about upcoming programmes and support groups.

1.00pm Free programme

Planning and delivering free education programmes is something Tammy finds especially rewarding.

The Living Well programme is for people with cancer and their carers. It’s designed to help people build coping and self-help skills so they feel more confident and in control of their wellness.

Tammy plans the programme and invites local specialists to talk on topics like exercise, nutrition and managing stress.

2.00pm Home visits

Tammy hits the road. Home visits mean clients don’t have to venture out when they’re unwell and they’re able to talk about their experiences in safe and familiar environment. But clients are welcome to meet Tammy at the office, or any other place they feel comfortable, like a quiet café.

During a typical home visit, Tammy may talk through a client’s cancer diagnosis and treatment plan in terms they can understand. It’s also an opportunity to talk about some of the services they can access to support them during their cancer experience, like free transport to treatment or massage therapy to reduce the side effects of treatment.

4.00pm In the office

Writing up client notes is a necessary part of any nurse’s day. It’s also a chance to follow up after client visits by sending additional information or Cancer Society publications that clients may find helpful.

Tammy also uses this time to refer clients to other services, or to help them access things like the Cancer Society’s wellness grant — a special payment they can use to attend exercise programmes to improve wellbeing, or to access counselling services.Your support makes the world of difference

Thanks to the generosity of the community, Cancer Society supportive care nurses provide vital help to people doing it tough because of a cancer diagnosis. Last year there were:

8,795 times when supportive care nurses were there to offer advice, information and support to someone affected by cancer

1,403 frozen meals provided to clients and carers

166 support group meetings held in communities across the region