"I wanted to share our project’s successes with others, and charitable funding made it possible”
Some people with lung cancer have radical radiotherapy treatment, which normally consists of six weeks of daily sessions. A common side effect is finding it hard to eat, as the location of the tumour in the chest can lie quite close to the food pipe and cause ulceration (known as oesophagitis). Swallowing is painful, so quite often people need to eat a special diet to sustain their nutrition.
We were getting a lot of referrals from the radiotherapy clinic for patients who needed to see a dietitian. We didn’t have enough availability for them, and people could often be waiting up to six weeks to see us. So, we had the idea to start attending the weekly radiotherapy clinic to review the patients alongside the nurse who ran it. It was a small shift but has significantly change our patients’ experience.
People say the new service enables them to gain quicker access to a dietitian, hopefully improving the management of their side effects. It’s about keeping them as strong as possible so they can successfully get through their course of treatment.
I applied for an Individual Staff Award from the Charity to cover all my costs. Being awarded the ISA meant I was able to present the work; something I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
Having completed an evaluation, I wanted to publicise the success of the project. We knew that in lung cancers, it wasn’t common to see a dedicated dietitian supporting a radiotherapy clinic, so I thought that our work would be of interest to healthcare professionals in other hospitals.
We decided the British Thoracic Oncology Group (BTOG) Annual Conference in Dublin would be a great place to show the benefits of having a dietitian as an integral part of the service to medics and nurses. Our project was accepted as a poster and was displayed for the three days of the conference. There was a dedicated one-hour session where I answered people’s questions about our project and its outcomes. The poster also won one of the top 10 poster awards from the 200 submissions displayed.
It felt really good to promote the work we do. Attending the conference made me feel extremely proud of the changes we'd introduced to improve patient care.
Once the poster was formally accepted for the conference, I still had to fund my registration, accommodation and travel. Our department has a study budget, but it’s relatively small and couldn’t cover the full cost.
So I applied for an Individual Staff Award (ISA) from Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity to cover all my costs. Being awarded the ISA meant I was able to present the work; something I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.
It felt really good to promote the work we do within the Dietetics department and the wider lung cancer multidisciplinary team; attending the conference made me feel extremely proud of the changes we had introduced to ultimately improve patient care.
The project involved me stepping back and asking myself, ‘We’re doing great work, but what more can we do for our patients?’. This project for me was about continually trying to create a better quality of care for our lung cancer patients. We also have four dietitians from our team taking part in the St Thomas’ Abseil on 11 May to raise money for the Charity to fund the gastro-intestinal unit. We all feel a sense of pride for the work we do, and so want to play our part in supporting the development of our facilities and service in any way we can.
I would urge staff who have a great idea, however small, to get in touch with the Charity – they’re great at supporting projects and their funding can make a big difference.
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