Much has been researched and written about the values of specialist cancer nursing and peer support and of the roles they play in the supportive care context. However, there are few examples of these roles melding in an equal partnership.
Whilst Survivorship Centres are now emerging in the cancer domain, The Wesley Hospital Choices Cancer Support Centre (Choices) has provided a unique blend of support to people affected by breast and gynaecological cancers regarding their emotional, social, and intellectual needs since 1998. Choices has been innovative in the implementation of services both in the Australian and global contexts with its development based on and reflecting the philosophy of providing a therapeutic environment respecting the needs of patients and supporters. This understanding now extends to people affected by all cancers.
Whilst clinical support and appropriate information are essential, so is the benefit of sharing the lived experience when provided in an empathetic and experienced manner. One of the strengths of Choices which distinguishes it from other programs is its strong commitment to the value of expert peer support as part of the clinical team and deliberate strategies have been implemented acknowledging this.
Choices employs a specialist cancer nurse as manager alongside a team of registered nurses, allied health professionals, complementary therapists, and the peer support coordinator who has a personal cancer experience plus clinical knowledge and understanding and who work together in the development of services. Its success exists around this client focused partnership demonstrating a seamless natural blend of all aspects of care.
This partnership has enabled patient navigation and survivorship concerns to be more easily managed with support accessible throughout the cancer trajectory. There are no time limits, enabling support to be accessed and provided from diagnosis to end of life.