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Empowering patients as a cancer nurse

11 September 2019
Pursuing a rewarding career in cancer nursing
Rebecca Needham is an Immuno-Oncology Cancer Nurse Coordinator in the outpatient cancer centre at Royal North Shore Hospital

Rebecca Needham was honoured at the Susan Wakil School of Nursing and Midwifery awards and prize night earlier this year. 

Rebecca Needham started working in the emergency department of Royal North Shore Hospital (RNSH) after graduating from nursing, but it was later, when she moved into the cancer centre, that she discovered her true passion.

“As soon as I started working in cancer, I knew it was my area of interest. The outpatient cancer centre is unique in that you develop relationships with patients which last over a long period of time. I find this so rewarding and a really special part of my job.”

Her dedication to cancer care and her ambition to be a specialised cancer nurse helped motivate Rebecca to undertake a masters at the University of Sydney.

“I wanted to gain a deep knowledge and understanding behind the nursing care that I provided daily.”

Continuing to learn and develop

Rebecca was drawn to studying a Master of Cancer and Haematology Nursing at Sydney after looking at the vast array of subjects, which she thought were both interesting and relatable to her role at the cancer centre.

“The best aspects of the course were the study days each semester filled with amazing speakers who spoke about their career and journey to achieving their goals. I remember going back to work after study days being very motivated and inspired.”

She was awarded the Trace Richey Scholarship, designed to support and further the education of nurses who care for bone marrow transplant patients. The opportunity gave Rebecca the drive to push further with her studies and strive for even better results.

Research, patient care, and leadership for good

The scholarship helped pave the way for Rebecca to complete her masters, which she says greatly improved her patient knowledge and care. She undertook subjects on cancer, leadership and research, which expanded her understanding of cancer and how to support patients experiencing cancer.

“The leadership subject allowed me to build on my management and leadership skills. I learnt that you do not need to be in a high management position to be a nursing leader; you can practice and integrate leadership and role modelling in any position,” Rebecca said.

“This was such an empowering lesson and really helped me to improve as a Registered Nurse.”

Making a difference

For Rebecca, the best aspects of being a nurse are caring for patients and making a difference to their cancer experience.

“Being a cancer nurse is very empowering because you can identify side effects patients are experiencing and educate them on how to self-manage these. I also love connecting with patients and listening to their life stories and updates. I think patients teach me a lot about life and what is truly important.

“One of the most vital things you can do to advance your career is to complete post graduate study, so I encourage everyone to just go for it.

“Align yourself with positive role models in your workplace or outside of it. Try and seek out the people who support you and encourage you to improve. Talk to them about your career goals and aspirations and seek their advice on how to achieve this.”

Rebecca has recently commenced a part time role as an Immuno-Oncology Cancer Nurse Coordinator and hopes to improve immunotherapy education for nurses and patients. Looking to the future, she aspires to continue her work in cancer nursing and become a nurse practitioner.