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Specialist nurse develops cancer service for teenagers at Queen’s Hospital

Virginia Gonzalez uses Whatsapp to stay in touch with patients who rarely answer their phones (Credit: BHRUT)

A clinical nurse specialist has helped develop a cancer service for teenagers and young adults at Queen’s Hospital.

Virginia Gonzalez has supported young patients living with cancer since the Teenage and Young Adults’ Cancer Service was first introduced in March 2020, just as the Covid pandemic hit.

She has been making it easier for patients to access treatment locally as most of her referrals come from University College London Hospitals Trust (UCLH), a specialist centre for young cancer patients. 

“Before this service was introduced, these patients had to travel into central London to UCLH for every appointment,” she explained. “This could mean missing out on time in education.

“Now, we can offer them necessary blood tests, Covid swabs and PICC line care (peripherally inserted central catheter line, used for giving chemotherapy or other treatment), locally, which is much better for them.

“As part of the development of the service, I’d like to be able to offer more services locally.”

UCLH is still the main treatment centre for patients and where they have chemotherapy but Virginia is trying to create more space in the Sunflower Suite for those who need emergency treatment, reducing the time they would spend in A&E. 

She said: “Sometimes they need to come to A&E, for complications following treatment for example. A&E isn’t a great place for them to be, especially as they have low immune systems.

“I’m working on building links with our A&E teams so I can use my specialist knowledge to help us provide better care.

“Not all staff are trained to use PICC lines, which can mean patients are given an extra needle. And if they have an infection, they need antibiotics within 30 minutes.”

Virginia has also introduced the use of Whatsapp to ensure she can stay in touch with young patients and check up on them. 

“I work with 16 to 25-year-olds and often found they wouldn’t pick up the phone if they didn’t know the number,” she added. “So I adapted to them and found that Whatsapp works better.

“It allows me to introduce myself and the service and arrange a time to talk via video call. I can also use it afterwards to check on them and how they’re doing.”

The Teenage and Young Adults’ Cancer Service will also host events to bring young cancer patients together so they can share their experiences and make new friends. 

It has a range of entertainment for them, including games, a TV and Playstation thanks to funding from the hospitals charity. 

For more on this story, and the latest on our other local and national news, listen to Time 107.5FM

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