Three staff from the Aberdeen Hospital’s oncology department were able to take advantage of a return to in-person learning, attending the Atlantic Canada Oncology Group Conference that was hosted in Halifax in June. This two-day event featured regional, national and international presenters sharing their expertise and the latest research in the field. The symposium brought together all types of health care professionals associated with cancer care throughout the Atlantic provinces, providing opportunities for interprofessional learning through both casual and formal discussions.
The nurses were able to attend with funding from the Aberdeen Health Foundation’s Edith Were Fraser Family Memorial Endowment and Dr. Johnnie Miles Williston Education Fund, both of which were created to support continuing education opportunities for health care staff in Pictou County.
Alice Fortune is an oncology nurse working as Cancer Patient Navigator in Pictou County. In this role, she works closely with cancer patients, families and their care teams throughout their diagnosis, treatment and follow up. “My biggest takeaway from attending the conference was being educated on the newest treatments available in Canada, now used locally in Atlantic Canada. Specifically, the CAR-T cell treatments. Previously, CAR-T cell patients in Nova Scotia would have to travel to Boston to receive this life-saving treatment, at great cost to the Nova Scotia government and the patients themselves. These new, innovative treatments are now available in Canada as of 2018, with the first Nova Scotian patient treated at the QEII Health Science Centre in Halifax just this past spring.”
Tanya MacKay is a Registered Nurse working in an ambulatory chemotherapy clinic in Pictou County to administer Chemotherapy and Immunotherapy to patients as prescribed by the Cancer Centre in Halifax. Through her attendance at the conference, MacKay says she feels more confident in having the most up to date knowledge regarding cancer research and available treatments. “I’m able to share my new-found knowledge with my patients and nursing colleagues. It will certainly help me manage and support patient symptoms as they arise from these new treatments.”
The conference was not just for nurses, notes Fortune. “The local oncology physician also attended. The attendees included medical and radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, surgeons and health care providers working in oncology in Atlantic Canada.”
Jacqueline Ewart, a Registered Nurse in the Aberdeen Hospital oncology clinic also attended the June event. She adds, “This kind of in-person interaction and symposium allows health care providers at all levels to learn from each other and work more cohesively as a team. Ultimately, we all have the same goal – to improve supports that benefit our patients.”
Attending the June conference helped support the hospital’s oncology team achieve this goal, according to Fortune. “Knowing the latest and most current cancer treatments and approaches to care is vital to supply patients with accurate and timely information. Being able to answer questions about what that patient’s cancer journey may involve helps alleviate some of the anxiety and fear of the unknown for our patients and their families.”
“Funding from the Aberdeen Health Foundation makes these opportunities accessible for us as health care providers. Education is powerful. Being able to empower a cancer patient with knowledge when they are in a situation where they have little control is priceless.”