Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist and FOJO Founder
I moved to Jersey in 2007 to take a position of senior staff nurse in the Oncology/Haematology outpatient department in the Jersey General Hospital and as my career developed over the years, I gained a greater knowledge of cancer care within the island. Having nursed my own mother through her cancer journey through the eyes of a nurse and a daughter, this gave me insight into the needs of patients, their families and loved ones as they embark on chemotherapy and supportive treatments for their cancer.
In my previous role at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary Oncology/Haematology outpatient department, cancer patients were supported by the charity Friends of Anchor, and I saw firsthand the many benefits this gave to patients and their families.
My mission was to start a charity that could offer the same support to Jersey’s Oncology/Haematology unit whilst working here as a specialist nurse. In 2012 Friends of Jersey Oncology (FOJO) was launched.
Our aim is to provide non-States funded equipment and additional services to enhance the care individual patients receive. Because I’m here in the Oncology team, we can get to know each patient and find out how to make a difficult and vulnerable time that little bit easier. When someone is diagnosed with cancer, they meet with the consultant for a treatment plan and chemotherapy schedule. Then very quickly after that, they meet with one of the specialists like me which is where we can gauge their needs and get them the practical help that’s right for them.
Everyone is different. FOJO can help with specific support and resources for each person, from helping with nursery fees if patients have children, to assisting with travel costs. One individual was worried about who would look after her dogs while she was having radiotherapy in the UK, so we were able to pay for a dog walker. We’ve even funded an iPhone for one patient so they could FaceTime us with their symptoms. It’s different for everyone. This is where FOJO can step in quite early with targeted help that can support the patient and their family. We can’t change your diagnosis but there are a lot of things that FOJO can do to help people practically.
One of the first things we implemented were the FOJO care packs. They contain all the practical things you need from thermometers and pill boxes to paycards to cover the cost of hospital parking and a treatment voucher you receive when you’re halfway through your treatment as something to look forward to. Thanks to FOJO, we’ve been able to double the amount patients receive as a wig voucher. We’ve also funded the purchase of six new cold caps that help to minimise hair loss through chemotherapy. We’ve furnished special quiet areas in the unit for patients to use, and funded additional nursing courses to enable more staff to safely administer cytotoxic drugs, reducing the need for patients to travel off-island for treatment.
In bigger hospitals, there’s a higher turnover of staff and patients can meet different individuals every time, so you miss that opportunity to really understand their needs. Here in Jersey, two of our team are involved with FOJO, so we see opportunities to help every day. If a patient is struggling with a particular problem, we can fund what they need. Because we’re so small, there a real continuity of care, and FOJO is well-placed to offer holistic support that focuses on the needs of each individual. It’s quite a unique set up here in Jersey, but that’s why it works.