Liz Dunn’s Update after Winning the 2011 Educational Scholarship Award

Posted on: 2 Nov 2011

In writing a summary of how the educational scholarship awarded by the European Group for Blood and Bone Marrow Transplantation (UK) Nurses and Allied Health Professionals (EBMT (UK) NAP) has been of great benefit I am returning to my original application to review the goals and areas of specific interest, which I identified at the time.

I had an opportunity to embark on a research project and was keen to explore an area of patient experience of haematopoietic transplantation. Therefore, to attend this specialist conference was a chance to network with clinical staff and to find out more about the current topical areas of research and development across Europe.

I have worked in oncology and haematology for the past six years and been constantly in awe of the ways in which patients cope with aggressive chemotherapy regimes, radiation and long periods of time in hospital often in isolation. Short and longer term side effects of treatments have an on-going effect on patients’ experiences and quality of life, not least the physically and emotionally draining effects of graft versus host disease (GVHD).

One of the clinical developments which came about as a direct result of the BMT team attending the Paris conference has been the introduction of extracorporeal photopheresis (ECP) as a treatment for the acute phase of GVHD. Currently, patients with chronic GVHD have been treated in our dermatology department situated in a different hospital to that where stem cell transplants take place (though part of the same Trust). As ECP was being considered as an earlier intervention than previously, it became an increased risk for acutely unwell patients to transfer and receive therapy in an ambulatory setting. I admit to being somewhat nervous by the rapid introduction of a procedure taking us into unchartered territory in terms of knowledge and expertise, with limited evidence as to its efficacy. Within a relatively short space of time and gargantuan team effort, standard operating procedures were written, training programmes developed and ECP became a reality for a number of patients with steroid refractory/ dependent aGVHD both in the haematology ward and day unit setting. Doubtless, the clinical outcomes will be reported at a future meeting.

A specific interest of mine is the quality of life for patients surviving acute life threatening illness, the longer term physical, psychological and psychosocial effects and their future health needs as well as the contribution nurses can make to actively support patients through the diagnostic, treatment and survival phases. Therefore, presentations from nurses including topics such as high risk transplantation, ethical considerations, palliative care, supportive and ambulatory care and survivorship were all highly relevant. Similarly, the conference presented many opportunities to visit commercial stands and to hear about novel therapies and products to treat conditions such as mucositis and poor nutritional status.

Not least were the networking opportunities afforded on this visit, both professionally and socially. It was a great opportunity to meet up with new and established colleagues on the London circuit and beyond! It was inspiring to learn of the work of the EBMT committee in terms of supporting education and research for nurses and developing innovative ways to support patients and their families.

In times when it can be difficult to secure funding to attend conferences, it is very helpful to be able to seek help from a number of different sources and amazing how quickly numerous channels of support make it possible.

All told, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to have been awarded this scholarship and feel it has been the springboard to instigate a piece of patient centred research which I hope to share in the future.

Liz Dunn, September 2011