Lack of specialist training for nurses is failing adolescent cancer patients

Embargoed: 00.01 hrs BST Thursday 30 March 2006

London, UK: Teenagers and young adults with cancer are not always cared for appropriately because a lack of specialist training for nurses means that staff are not necessarily equipped to recognise and meet the unique needs of this age group, according to a nurse manager at the Manchester Teenage Cancer Trust Unit.

Miss Sam Smith told a news briefing at the TCT's 4th International Conference on Teenage and Young Adult Cancer Medicine: "Until the fundamental training needs of nursing staff are addressed, the unique needs of teenagers and young adults with cancer will continue to be unrecognised. Nurse education in this area is vital to the development of knowledge and expertise in caring for this group, and to the important recognition of teenage and young adult (TYA) cancer as a speciality in its own right. Such recognition is essential if the NHS is to respond appropriately to the criteria laid down in the NICE guidance for the treatment of these cancer patients."1

Miss Smith, lead/manager in adolescent oncology at the TCT Young Oncology Unit at the Christie Hospital, Manchester, UK, said that a small number of key healthcare professionals who worked within the TCT units in the UK had been able, over time, to acquire in-depth knowledge and comprehensive expertise in all aspects of care of young people, including disease management, symptom control, and the vast array of psychosocial issues, needs and care, from diagnosis through to the years beyond treatment. However, this was not representative of the knowledge and expertise of nurses nationally who worked with young cancer patients in non-specialist services.

"Within the UK there is minimal nurse education in TYA cancer, and what exists is fragmented. Pre-registration education is virtually non-existent and there is little attention to the needs of teenagers and young adults in general. Post-registration education in a

Contact: Emma Mason
Teenage Cancer Trust

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