Mount Isa Hospital’s cancer care Nurse Unit Manager Nicole Williams completed her master’s degree earlier this year and became the first qualified nurse practitioner in Queensland for adult cancer care patients.
Nicole committed to the two-and-a-half year undertaking, which included more than 300 hours of supervised practice during the course, along with assessments and exams across eight subjects, because of her longstanding commitment to rural and remote healthcare and wanting the best possible services available for the region.
Nicole said it is a fantastic achievement for the North West Hospital and Health Service (HHS) that Mount Isa is now a leader in the field of oncology.
“As a satellite service to Townsville cancer centre, we have never had on-site access to the oncologists and would need to utilise the already overloaded medical team to assist cancer care patients. A former EDMS suggested that a nurse-led model would be the perfect solution to address the issues,” Nicole recalled.
“I resisted at first, knowing how much work it would be, but with the support from my work colleagues I decided to go for it. The benefits to the patients and staff of the cancer care unit would far outweigh any fear I had.”
Following a 50-page application and a minimum of five years of advanced level nursing practice, Nicole became eligible to apply and began her journey to become a nurse practitioner.
Sadly, a year into her studies, while still juggling work in her role as nurse unit manager for the cancer care unit, she was diagnosed with stage three breast cancer.
“I knew I would need to make a choice whether to continue studying or not and I wondered if I would be able to get it finished,” she says.
“To be honest, after working in oncology for so long, I was sick of cancer taking things – people, family, opportunities, and I saw completing my studies as a small way that I could fight back. I decided to keep going and see how I went.”
Navigating both her studies and cancer diagnosis, Nicole continued down the path she had set out for herself and is now a proud nurse practitioner in oncology and cancer-free.
“I have a special interest in breast cancer survivorship and supportive care and believe it is a privilege to have a job that allows me to make a discernible difference in the lives of people living with cancer,” she says.
Nicole can provide patient-centred care locally through patient assessment and chemotherapy toxicity management. It is also hoped that the nurse practitioner model will reduce hospital admissions for patients undergoing chemotherapy and provide much needed continuity of care.