Championing professional development in nursing | Chris O'Brien Lifehouse
 In OpenHouse News

“I’m just so happy you exist!”

Amy O’Donnell had been a specialist lung cancer nurse only a few weeks when she was told this by a patient in Day Therapy, who she had only just met.

“This woman had previously had lymphoma; now she has lung cancer,” explains Amy. “Because of her history, she understands the value of a specialist nurse.”

In hospitals around the world, specialist nursing care is one of the most consistently reported factors in patients saying their experience is a good one. With a postgraduate qualification and at least two years of direct experience, specialist nurses are qualified to coordinate care and treatment, develop treatment plans and make referrals. They are a patient’s primary contact, educator and navigator throughout treatment and beyond.

A recent study from Chris O’Brien Lifehouse’s head and neck department also proves that an increased number of specialist nurses results in faster responses to post-operative complications. Chris O’Brien Lifehouse’s average response rate for return to theatres is less than 3.5 hours, almost half the six hour standard recommended time. This means that under the care of a specialist nurse, patients have a better chance of recovering safely from complex surgeries.

Unfortunately, the challenges and costs associated with recruiting specialist nurses mean they are often absent in cancer hospitals in Australia.

At Chris O’Brien Lifehouse, philanthropic support has enabled the appointment of specialist nurses, like Amy, across the hospital and continuing of nurse education through scholarship programs such as the Keith Cox Education Fund.

Thanks to donors like you, we now have specialist nurses in the streams of lung, prostate, head and neck, breast, acute pain and gynae-oncology.

“Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is championing professional development in nursing,” said Professor Donna Waters, Dean of Nursing at the University of Sydney. “It’s created a wonderfully open and welcoming environment for our students to learn in. This is how you will create a future cancer nursing workforce.”

To support more nurses like Amy, you can make a donation to the Keith Cox Fund at

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