COVID-19 has resulted in disruptions to healthcare globally, including areas of cancer and palliative care

Date: 16/06/2021

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all in ways we could never have imagined. Patient care has been disrupted in a variety of ways, resulting in increased stress for patients and caregivers. A new study at Cabrini, supported by an Alan Jackson Nursing Research Grant, will explore the experiences of people with cancer and their caregivers to inform future cancer and palliative care provision during crises. 

Associate Professor Philip Russo, Director of the Cabrini Monash University Department of Nursing Research, is leading a collaborative project with Cabrini and Monash University researchers to explore experiences of people with cancer and their caregivers during COVID-19 to better prepare for the next pandemic. A/Prof Russo said: “The illness experiences of people with cancer and their caregivers are likely to have been detrimentally affected by the COVID-19 pandemic; however, given the emerging nature of this problem, little is currently known.” 

“This research seeks to address this gap and help to improve cancer and palliative care service provision into the future.”

The advent of COVID-19 has introduced unprecedented change in hospitals across Australia. Routine healthcare services have been put aside to allow preparation for a potential surge of patients with COVID-19 requiring hospital care. Elective surgery, outpatient and pathology services have all been severely disrupted, affecting patients and healthcare workers (HCW) alike. This alteration in work processes has even resulted in some cases in a complete change of employment role, or requests to take leave. There has also been an incredible influx of recommendations and guidelines from Commonwealth and state health departments, colleges, societies and associations, occasionally resulting in contrary guides and mixed messages.

We can learn so much from those who are directly responsible for the care of patients in an infectious disease crisis. Fears of infection, uncertainty and reliance on personal protective equipment, keeping updated on management guidelines and the wellbeing of colleagues and families have been identified as major concerns for HCW in recent studies. 

The study at Cabrini will involve a series of interviews with key informants such as those providing direct healthcare (nurses, doctors and allied health) from a variety of cancer service settings at Cabrini. These interviews will provide crucial information for the next two phases of the study, a series of focus groups followed by in-depth interviews from people with cancer and their caregivers. 

“The findings from this study will inform future planning of cancer services during crisis management at Cabrini. Emerging infectious diseases, such as other novel viruses, and the emergence of multi-resistant organisms, pose an ongoing threat to our community. We can expect to see other COVID like pandemics in the future,” A/Prof Russo said.

This project is supported by a generous donation, named the Alan Jackson Research Grant. Donations allow us to do research that advance new treatment options and provide better care, ensuring there is a brighter health future for all those in need.