PCC Allied Health - The Last 15 Years and The Future

Contributed by: Fahma Sunarja

The Allied Health team at Parkway Cancer Centre (PCC) comprise a diverse group of healthcare professionals who provide multidisciplinary care and support to patients and their families. In celebration of PCC’s 15th Anniversary, we feature PCC’s Fahma Sunarja (Senior Dietitian), Zhang Liting  (Senior Palliative Care Nurse) and Tan Hui Ping (Principal Counsellor) to understand the varied roles and responsibilities PCC’s Allied Health team provides.

What we do as part of the Allied Health team

Fahma: I am a practicing dietitian and developing a specialty in cancer nutrition. I advise patients on good eating plans to prepare them for cancer treatment; help them cope with side-effects of treatment; and ensure good nutrition status for patients throughout their treatments. Apart from being a clinical dietitian, I look after the Allied Health department in PCC, which consists of a team of dietitians, counsellors and palliative care nurses.

Liting: I am a palliative care nurse in the Allied Health team. I work closely with the Palliative Medicine Specialist to take care of patients referred to us by PCC oncologists. On a daily basis, we work to assess and manage the pain and symptom control of our patients. For very ill and terminal patients, we also provide end-of-life care to improve their quality of life before they pass on.

Hui Ping: As a counsellor with the Allied Health team, I provide counselling for my patients. However, ‘counselling’ can sound like a big and hazy term, so more broadly, I often tell my patients that what I do is to chit-chat with them, listen to them, explore with them ways to deal with their challenges and difficult emotions, and provide a private and quiet space for them to air their thoughts and share their feelings.

How we ensure the best possible care for patients

Fahma: Communication is key; being able to discuss patient care and cases with doctors and colleagues in real-time makes caring for patients more effective. This is the strength of PCC’s multidisciplinary team.

Liting: We work together within a multidisciplinary team to deliver holistic service for patients. When we have common patients between the Oncology team and Palliative Care team, we would usually update each other of patients’ progression. We would also connect our patients to the dietitians and counsellors within our team when we know that they need nutritional, psycho-emotional or social support.

Hui Ping: Sometimes, in my sessions with patients, they would talk about losing appetite, or caregivers would share their challenges in preparing nutritional meals for their loved ones. In such instances, I would offer the services of our dietitians to them, with consent from the doctor. This is generally how the multidisciplinary team in PCC works—where each of us, in our respective areas of expertise, come together to care and support our patients holistically.

How the team has changed over the last 15 years

Fahma: Today, we have a team of qualified allied health professionals. Together with the medical and nursing team, we strengthen multidisciplinary support for patient care.

Liting: Through the years of professional development within our team, we have witnessed ourselves grow stronger in our respective specialisations. We have also improved greatly in our organisation and communication with each other, and also built a stronger bond working as a team together.

Hui Ping: Since the day I joined PCC, I saw that we have grown from strength to strength, not just in terms of quantity, but quality as well. Apart from attending to patients, we also conduct talks, workshops, webinars to share and educate patients and public members about the importance of nutrition and psychological health related to cancer—all crucial in a patient’s cancer treatment and recovery journey.

How patients inspire us

Fahma: Seeing them, we realise we often take our health for granted, until it is taken away from you. So start taking care of your health now.

Liting: In the midst of pain and suffering, some of our patients and their family members are able to find perseverance, endurance, joy and hope in life. They carry on as they receive the recommended care from the doctors and the allied health team. They are inspiring and give a different perspective of life to us.

Hui Ping: Witnessing patients doing the seemingly impossible in the most amazing and extraordinary ways is itself an inspiration. I learnt a lot from my patients and draw energy, drive and power from them. My patients are my teachers.

Our hopes for Allied Health for the future

Fahma: I hope to have a more comprehensive Allied Health team that is able to provide lifestyle and wellness programmes for cancer survivors and integrated wellness programmes to prevent chronic illnesses including cancer.

Within the Allied Health team, I hope we can explore inter- and intra-disciplinary knowledge to help coordinate patient care more effectively.

Liting: I hope that younger nurses, and Allied Health professionals who have the passion in helping cancer patients and their family, will join us in this career path, so that we can continue to provide comprehensive care for cancer patients.

Hui Ping: I hope that we can have more comprehensive Allied Health services in future, such as added disciplines like Physiotherapists, Art Therapists or Music Therapists so that we have a variety of services to cater to the different aspects of therapeutic care for our patients.

POSTED IN Cancer Pain Management, Cancer Treatments, Nutrition, Palliative Care
TAGS cancer counsellor, cancer diet & nutrition, cancer nurse, cancer pain management, cancer quality of life