New nurses to meet Victoria’s cancer needs

Tuesday 6 July, 2021

For 30 years, people like you have helped make sure that experienced and compassionate cancer nurses are only a phone call away for anyone confronting a cancer diagnosis.

But with COVID-19 causing higher levels of distress in cancer patients and a greater need for support across Victoria, the Department of Health is teaming up with Cancer Council to meet the demand through the exciting new ACCESS (Accessing Cancer Care Equitably using Support Services) Project.

This initiative has seen three new regionally based nurses joining the 13 11 20 cancer information and support line team. Taryn Sibson, Liz Turnley and Elisabeth Johnson have taken up positions as Clinical Nurse Specialists to help ease the burden on acute health services across regional and rural Victoria.

This means that more Victorians will be able to access the support they need to make it through a cancer diagnosis.

As well as their new positions in the 13 11 20 team, all three oncology nurses also work in local health services, and have seen how much this service is needed in their regions.

Taryn, a mother of three from Stawell in western Victoria, has been a nurse for 13 years. Her extensive oncology experience has shown her just how much difference having this service will make.

“I know firsthand the lack of face-to-face support services available to oncology patients and their families,” Taryn said. “I know how important services such as 13 11 20 are in providing support to people living in rural areas.”

Elisabeth, or Lis, based in Ballarat and mum to two boys, agreed, saying her eight years as an oncology nurse and background in regional care made her excited to join the team.

“I am passionate about patient-centred care and ensuring equal access to services for all affected by cancer,” Lis said. “I’m an experienced oncology nurse with over eight years comprehensive practice in all areas of cancer care, and I’m excited to contribute my knowledge and experience.”

Liz, who grew up in regional Victoria and now lives in Geelong, started her career more recently in 2017 – but has found a passion for working in oncology and palliative care.

“I was drawn to Cancer Council as I have a strong interest in patient education and empowerment,” Liz said. “I believe this plays a key role in patient outcomes.”

With more nurses now covering Victoria’s regional areas, this will make support for people affected by cancer more consistent and equitable than ever.

People living in regional and rural Victoria have often reported greater difficulties finding relevant and timely support while they or a loved one faces cancer.

This has been exacerbated further by COVID-19, which has put a huge strain on local health services while also seeing a drop in cancer screening and diagnoses. The 13 11 20 nurses continue to see a significant increase in demand during this time, with their average calls per week increasing from 180 to 235, often featuring higher levels of distress and resulting in a 20% increase in referrals to counselling services.

This ongoing increase in demand means more risk of vulnerable Victorians falling through the gaps. But thanks to our supporters and the Department of Health’s ACCESS program, there’s work being done to fill those gaps and help understand the unique needs of all Victorians affected by cancer, to ensure everyone has equitable access to the care they need to make it through a diagnosis. 

Meet your new nurses

Taryn, based in Stawell

I am Taryn from Stawell, the gateway to the Grampians in rural Victoria! For the past 13 years I have worked at Stawell Regional Health in a variety of roles, and for the past 5 years I have worked in an Oncology Department in a part time basis as a Clinical Nurse Specialist.  I am also working temporarily on a project called Grampians Oncology ePrescribing Project and have commenced a Graduate Diploma of Psychological Science. I know how important services such as 13 11 20 and Cancer Council Victoria are to provide support to people living in rural areas. I am passionate about supportive care and working with people affected by cancer.

Lis, based in Ballarat

I am an experienced oncology nurse with over eight years comprehensive practice in all areas of cancer care. My career encompasses work in day therapy units, oncology and palliative care wards, outpatient clinics and community palliative care. I have vast experience working in several public & private hospitals throughout Australia, with a strong background in regional cancer care.   I am currently working in the chemotherapy day unit of the Ballarat Regional Integrated Cancer Centre.  I am passionate about patient centred care and ensuring equal access to services for all affected by cancer. I am excited to join the team at 13 11 20.

Liz, based in Geelong

I grew up in regional Victoria and have loved living in Geelong. I started my nursing career in 2017 and I quickly found my passion for cancer and palliative care. In 2018 I continued on to complete my Postgraduate Certificate in Cancer and Palliative Care with Latrobe University. I currently work at University Hospital Geelong on the inpatient Haematology and Oncology ward. I look forward to being a part of the Cancer Council team.