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Why teenagers and young adults?

David Wright, Cancer Trust Lead Nurse for Teenagers and Young Adults at Manchester Christie Hospital, talks about why he chose to work with this age group.

Along with why nursing? why teenagers? is a question I am often asked. As a staff nurse at my first job on an adult haematology ward, I really enjoyed working with the younger adults. Then, as their care was gradually transferred to the TYA unit, I discovered working with this age group was what I wanted to pursue. Having said that, I never really imagined this would be how my career unfolded!

The best part of being a TYA nurse is definitely the wonderful young people we are privileged to work with every day. It’s really inspiring to be around them and learn from the ways that they cope with their illness as part of their daily lives. Also, I have to mention our amazing multidisciplinary team. Working with a team which has a range of experience and backgrounds and think outside of the box creates a truly enjoyable work environment; we are all constantly learning from each other.

Unique challenges

Of course, we also face plenty of unique challenges. A key part of TYA care is to recognise that teenagers and young adults want to focus on their lives rather than their illness. We know that although our patients have cancer, it is just one aspect of their lives and their illness doesn’t define them. Our job is to help make this possible by being as flexible as possible in accommodating young people’s specific needs.

Cancer can impact on key developmental life stages in so many ways, such as family dynamics where patients might struggle with independence, education, peer interaction and fertility. Many treatments can reduce fertility, so it’s important for us to keep young people fully informed with all the options that are available to them.

Collaborative approach

All of these considerations mean that it’s essential that TYA care involves a collaborative approach. This means juggling clinicians, patients, families, charities and multiple hospital trusts in my role which can sometimes be a challenge but means no two days are ever the same!

TYAC has helped me support teenagers and young adults from the beginning. I first got involved at an education day, when I was asked to stand in for a colleague and talk about the challenges of TYA care. 11 years ago, I became a member and I’ve encompassed a variety of roles since then, such as treasurer, board member and most recently a trustee.

Being part of TYAC has helped me massively in my career. It has helped me in my clinical practice through the education days, and I have better access to a support network of professionals for ideas and advice, and up to date information about caring for young people with cancer. I have also been able to share my own guidance to produce best practice statements such as physical activity and transitions.

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