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24 February 2022

Inclusivity in cancer care: co-creating a nursing module

Sian Hawkins, nursing lecturer and cohort lead, talks about how she developed a more inclusive Cancer Care module for Adult nursing students.

Student in lecture with laptop and notepad

An optional module on the BSc Adult Nursing programme is gaining attention for how it has embedded diversity and inclusion. The Cancer Care module, offered to pre-registration Adult Nursing students at the Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care, aims to prepare students to provide excellent and inclusive care to every person with cancer they meet.

The Cancer Care module was developed by Dr Sian Hawkins with Dr Lorraine Robinson and Mary Tanay, as part of the BSc adult nursing curriculum. As the new curriculum was being developed, Sian spoke with students who expressed a desire for LGBTQ+-specific teaching to be included in their studies.

Around the time I was having these conversations with students, a report was released by Marie Curie, which stated that overall care for LGBTQ+ people in the UK was severely lacking. There was also a report by Macmillan Cancer Support, which revealed quite depressing statistics about the care LGBTQ+ people with cancer received.

Sian Hawkins

Having read the reports and considered the student feedback, combined with her years of personal experience of delivering care to a diverse community of people, Sian decided to take a novel approach when setting up the Cancer Care module. She chose to embed diversity throughout the module, giving students a chance to gain valuable knowledge of the many different clients who access cancer services, and a chance to openly discuss and learn about their care in the classroom.

In the clinical module that all adult nursing students complete, they get a day and a half teaching about cancer and explore two case scenarios. There was a clear need to not only expand the amount of cancer care teaching we offer, but also to explore a more diverse range of case studies with a range of service users. In the Cancer Care module, we emphasise the importance of open dialogue with and about all the different clients who access cancer services, how we communicate with them and the varying needs they may have.

Sian Hawkins

When setting up the module, colleague Mary Tanay connected Sian with Stewart O’Callaghan, founder and director of Live Through This, a cancer support and advocacy charity for the LGBTQ+ community. Stewart started the organisation after seeing a lack of LGBTQ+-specific support or visibility in the cancer sector.

Sian and Stewart worked together on developing the teaching and resources for the module, ensuring cancer care for LGBTQ+ people was not confined to just one session, but embedded throughout the entirety of the module. Stewart reviewed and updated case studies, assignment topics and reading lists. They also recommended research papers on the experience of LGBTQ+ screening for cancer and cancer care.

Together, Sian and Stewart ensured diversity runs as a steady theme throughout the module and covers a wide range of people. Several sessions are delivered by service providers who have refined their care to meet the needs of patients from a diverse background. For instance, the background reading for cancer screening includes information on people with learning disabilities and people in the LGBTQ+ community, as well as a report on health inequalities and developments in cancer care for BAME communities. 

It has been great working with Sian on developing this Cancer Care module. There’s a tendency to only talk about LGBTQ+ health as it relates to sexual health, but LGBTQ+-specific needs must be considered in all areas of healthcare. In cancer care specifically, it’s important that people of all sexual orientations and gender identities see themselves represented in the services they access, and those service providers should be welcoming and knowledgeable of what it means to be LGBTQI+. This module is helping to create that shift.

Stewart O’Callaghan

In addition to contributing towards the module resources, Stewart also provides a session on LGBTQ+ cancer care for students. The session covers terminology, how to talk to LGBTQ+ people in a cancer care setting and gives students a chance to ask questions. The same session is also delivered to students undertaking the MSc Nursing with Registration as an Adult Nurse, forming part of one of their core modules.

Student feedback on the module has been positive in the two years it’s been running. Attendance is generally high, and students actively engage with the material and presenters. Students have also expressed how useful they find the module for learning how to provide inclusive care in their future nursing careers.

The module covers a wide range of topics relating to cancer care, including cancer screenings, genetic inheritance, treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiotherapy, and stem cell transplants. There are sessions on providing psychological support for patients and families, as well as ways to deal with your own compassion when dealing with a difficult situation.

Our overall goal for this module is for our students to go out into their future roles with the confidence that they will provide excellent care for every service user they meet.

Sian Hawkins

The co-creation of this module is an important step in the Faculty of Nursing, Midwifery & Palliative Care’s commitment to deliver more inclusive curricula across its education provision. Our goal is to embed equality, diversity, and inclusion into everything we do, and to champion positive action that drives change. We want to equip our nurses and midwives of the future with the knowledge and skills to deliver safe, effective, compassionate care that respects and celebrates individuality.

In this story

Head of Department, Adult Nursing and Senior Lecturer