In July 2018, a new rapid assessment head and neck cancer clinic opened at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse. The service provides a walk-in same day review service where head and neck patients with complications or concerns can receive specialist care.
The clinic was established by Justine Oates and Sarah Davies, the only two head and neck nurse practitioners in Australia. Chris O’Brien Lifehouse sees the largest number of head and neck cancer patients in New South Wales, so there is a great need for the specialised care these two can offer.
The nurse practitioners established the clinic to ensure patients experiencing complications from their treatment for head and neck cancer could turn up and be seen, avoiding the need for long waits at the emergency department. The service has also reduced hospital admissions at Chris O’Brien Lifehouse for these patients as the nurses are often able to deal with their concerns on the spot.
“The service has streamlined the process for our patients, as we are able to perform a review of their concerns and offer immediate assistance,” Justine says. “In providing care that enables them to avoid being admitted to hospital, we save the patient much distress and time. This also helps ease the burden on emergency departments and hospital wards.”
Eight months on, the clinic is continuing to make this goal a reality. Between July and December last year, 19 patients avoided turning up at the emergency department. The clinic continues to provide a service for patients to ask questions or raise concerns they may have about their illness or treatment. These range from bleeding wounds, airway concerns and pain management to infections. The clinic continues to reinforce face-to-face care from diagnosis to recovery, an approach Chris O’Brien Lifehouse strives for on a daily basis.
Justine and Sarah hope that the clinic will continue to fill a gap in treatment options for head and neck cancer patients. They also hope to provide focused training to future nurse practitioners in oncology.