New level of care for Stawell’s cancer patients

Cancer patient care has leapt to a new level at Grampians Health’s Stawell oncology unit. 

Specially appointed supportive care nurses are spending dedicated time with cancer patients to ensure they are comfortable and have everything they need before, during and after their treatment. 

The oncology supportive care nurse role has been made possible through a generous bequest from the family of the late Lauris Eileen Clark and Grampians Health has trained two Stawell-based nurses to fulfil the role. 

One of those nurses, Taryn Sibson is one of many ‘career wins’ for Stawell. She started at Stawell Hospital 14 years ago, working in administration as a ward clerk, then trained and completed her graduate years at Stawell. When Ms Sibson completed her graduate year, she continued studying to become an oncology nurse and has worked in Stawell’s oncology unit for the past six years, mainly in a clinical role. 

She also works part time for the Cancer Council in a similar role. Ms Sibson said she loved the new role and the extra level of care it provided. 

“The oncology unit was initially for treating cancer patients with chemotherapy and immunotherapy who would then go home and come back for another treatment,” Ms Sibson said. 

“The supportive care role looks after the wellbeing of patients so the support continues before, during and after their treatments. 

“I make sure the patients are going okay.” 

The supportive care nurses can help with organising transport, linking patients in with other services like mental health services, making appointments for them, making sure they’re getting to appointments and sending reminders. 

“So really we’re just working with each individual patient to see what they need support-wise and then tailoring that support to suit them,” Ms Sibson said. 

“We are providing them with education on their treatments – similar in some ways to a cancer resource nurse role but the depth of support is more involved. 

“It’s really exciting for us because prior to this we were treating the patients but now we can also focus on what each patient needs.” 

Stawell Oncology currently treats 34 regular patients who travel from as far as Donald, St Arnaud, Ararat and Moonambel. The unit treats patients five days a week, with cancer treatments on Tuesdays to Thursdays. The supportive care nurses work Mondays, Tuesdays and Fridays. 

Ms Sibson said she loved the emotional aspect of her work. 

“I like to support people emotionally with their cancer experience,” she said. 

“Previously we didn’t have extra time to sit down and talk to them and see what they actually needed and now with the dedicated staff to do that, we can help them further.” 

Ms Sibson said the response from patients for the new service had been very good. 

“I actually had one patient come in this morning to tell me how good she feels now. 

“I’d been working with her for quite a period of time and she came in to tell me she was going really well – she’s feeling much better and her level of distress has reduced dramatically. 

“So being able to give her that one-on-one support has been really helpful for her. 

“She wasn’t here for treatment today. She came in just to tell me that.” 

Cancer supportive care nurses Taryn Sibson and Shannon O’Keeffe with Stawell
Oncology nurse unit manager Trudi Dunmore.