CARIBBEAN– A nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) has returned from the46th Congress of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP 2014) in Canada even more enthused about strategies for the care of children with cancers or blood disorders, their families, and the nurses caring for them.
Virginia Leandre-Broome, one of three nurses from the Caribbean who attended the recent congress, spent a week in Toronto at SIOP 2014 and visited The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) to meet with Canadian counterparts, donors, and to tour the Hospital’s facilities.
Ms. Leandre-Broome attended SIOP 2014 thanks to a partnership between CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank and SickKids Foundation, a charity registered in the Caribbean, to fund training for Caribbean nurses as part of the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative through the Centre for Global Child Health at SickKids.
The initiative is led by Dr. Victor Blanchette, former Chief of Haematology/Oncology, McCaig Family Medical Director and a native of Barbados, and Dr. Upton Allen, Division Head of Infectious Disease, a native of Jamaica. Both are physicians at SickKids.
Nursing education is a key component of the initiative. Nurses have a critical role in teams caring for children with cancer and blood disorders, managing the delivery of patient care, supporting patients and families and in many cases leading implementation of best practices and protocols.
Ms. Leandre-Broome noted that areas of focus during the conference included: caring for patients with neutropenia (low white blood cell counts); dealing with side effects of chemotherapy; managing nutritional challenges and teaching families how to use and prepare healthy and affordable food stuff; as well as palliative care and home care. “With palliative care we were not only looking at the patients but also their parents and siblings,” she explained.
Families encouraged to eat healthily during treatment
One of the aspects of training which stood out most for Ms. Leandre-Broome was the idea of caring for other nurses. Focusing on that made her realize how important the health of the team is while they care for patients. “We need to care for each other if we’re to give proper care for patients and their families.” Family education was another aspect of the conference that impacted her heavily because of the importance of family in the patient’s care prompting the nurse to say that it was important to encourage the whole family, not just the sick child, to eat healthily during treatment and be aware of the importance of good nutrition. “And this needs to happen continually.”
Ms. Leandre-Broome has been with the QEH for 17 years and works closely with her young patients and their families in the hospital’s haematology outpatient department. There, about 30 children a month are seen with blood disorders, while in 2014, about seven children were seen with cancer.
She has already shared her experiences from the congress with both the inpatient care and outpatient clinic at the QEH. This is a fitting complement to the nursing-led Patient Care Education Rounds that started in May 2014 and are delivered via telemedicine. Telemedicine is the use of information technology to provide health care information and facilitate knowledge exchange from a distance.
In these monthly sessions, SickKids, the QEH and other participating institutions across the Caribbean examine areas such as pain management, use of natural health products along with chemotherapy, and psychosocial problems. At the QEH telemedicine sessions are attended by up to 13 nurses and for sessions on topics across different disciplines dieticians, doctors and pharmacists also attend.
Ms. Leandre-Broome, who is married with an 11 year-old son, recalled SickKids as feeling friendly and being family-centred. “There are areas of the hospital where families can stay with their children,” she noted.
Bank’s contribution raising awareness of childhood cancers
CIBC FirstCaribbean is the Nursing Training Partner for the SickKids-Caribbean Initiative project and is providing US $1 million over seven years to this end.
Ms. Leandre-Broome said the bank’s contribution was helping to raise awareness of childhood cancers and blood disorders in Barbados, the most common of which, she says, are acute leukemia, lymphomas and Wilms’ tumour (cancer of the kidneys). “The training has helped to raise awareness of these cancers and through the SickKids initiative we’ve found that it’s easier to make early diagnoses.” She added: “I’ve also gotten the opportunity to gain more knowledge and have been able to impart teaching and improve upon the care of our patients and their families.”
In terms of additional training being undertaken to help sick children in Barbados, the veteran nurse said the initiative was looking at implementing a train-the-trainer programme to advance nursing practice. There are a variety of roles nurses can play in the care of children with cancer and blood disorders.
“We’re also looking at training nurses to assist with the transition of the child back into the school system by, for example, speaking to classmates and staff about the child and his/her needs. [Overall], this [training] will lead to improvements of the standard of care and ensure that practice is evidence-based,” she said.
When asked what encouraged her to pursue a career caring for sick children, Ms. Leandre-Broome said that when she was younger she was part of a youth group formed to educate children about cancer. “A friend’s aunt had a son with a brain tumour and they started a group to hang out with the other siblings of the boy and assist his parents. Later on, nursing was something I wanted to do; it seemed like an interesting career and I wanted to work with children with cancer.” She has pursued courses of study at various facilities including Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York as well as a certificate in cancer care with Staffordshire University, England.
Improving outcomes for children with cancer
In addition to Barbados, SickKids is working with five other countries across the English-speaking Caribbean - The Bahamas, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad & Tobago - to improve outcomes for children affected by cancer and blood disorders. Working with these Caribbean partners, SickKids has developed a five-year plan for addressing the region’s gaps in research, care, and education in order to advance diagnosis and management of paediatric cancer and blood disorders across the Caribbean.
Director of Corporate Communications CIBC FirstCaribbean and a Trustee of the CIBC FirstCaribbean Comtrust Foundation, Debra King, expressed pleasure at the progress of training and said the bank looked forward to the dividends that would be brought to bear on the lives of sick children, their families and the medical profession in the Caribbean.
Mrs. King added: “It is important for us to contribute to providing our region with wider access to specialised consultations, treatment and care that can eventually save the lives of Caribbean children. This is why the continuing training and development of Caribbean professionals is crucial.” (CIBC)