Raising awareness of cancer among healthcare students
One in two people in the UK born after 1960 will be diagnosed with cancer in their lifetime (Cancer Research UK, 2018). With such high levels of prevalence, all nurses, regardless of specialty, workplace setting or levels of experience, will be caring for people affected by cancer. This mirrors pre-registration nursing students' experiences during their clinical placements as they are likely to be caring for people affected by cancer in most clinical placement settings. For some students this will be in a specialist cancer environment but, for many, they will be encountering patients affected by cancer in non-cancer specialist services.
Higher education institutions (HEIs) endeavour to equip students with knowledge and understanding about health conditions such as cancer. However, with packed curricula designed to meet the regulations set out by professional regulatory and statutory bodies, it can be challenging to include cancer-specific education in pre-registration programmes, especially if there is no cancer nursing champion within the organisation. This can result in students feeling unprepared for clinical placements, and apprehensive about looking after people with cancer. It is essential to increase access to cancer specialist knowledge and expertise to enable students to understand the impact of cancer on patients and families, demystify treatment, recovery and late effects, and increase students' confidence to care for those affected. This has been advocated by the Aspirant Cancer Career and Education Development programme (ACCEND). ACCEND is providing transformational reform in the education, training and career pathways for cancer support workers, nurses and allied health professionals supporting people affected by cancer in the UK (Potter and Taylor, 2022). ACCEND recognises the importance and value of students to current and future cancer care and has a workstream dedicated to addressing their needs.
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