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Sophie’s Story

How I Support My Patients

Sophie is a lung cancer clinical nurse specialist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust in London. She loves her job, because it enables her to forge strong relationships with the patients she cares for. Sophie completed the training programme No Conversation Too Tough with the Ruth Strauss Foundation which empowers her in her daily work.

“From the point of diagnosis, you’ve got a hand to hold,” she explains. “The minute they come into the room and they’re told this information, you become their first port of call. You get to know them on a personal level, and their families, their partners, their children. It really is a privilege to be able to help them.”

As part of that unique relationship, Sophie says, clinical nurse specialists are on hand to support patients with all of their questions and fears, whether that is about treatment and side effects, financial troubles, emotional well-being, or concerns about their loved ones.

One of the biggest worries patients often have is how to tell their children they are going to die. An unthinkable situation for any parent, there is often a presumption that nurses have all the answers and as Sophie explains, that is not always the case.

“You may feel you need to start those conversations, but you may not have the confidence,” she says. “There is an expectation of supporting patients and families and unfortunately, sometimes it can be really hard to know exactly what to do or where to turn.”

That is where the Ruth Strauss Foundation comes in. Sophie completed our healthcare professionals’ training programme and found it boosted her confidence when it comes to navigating these situations.

There were so many valuable learning points, like models of grief or talking about how children at different ages may express their emotions.”


Improving communication for healthcare professionals

Our free, CPD-accredited training programme, No Conversation Too Tough, is designed for clinical nurses and other healthcare professionals who work with families where a parent has incurable cancer.

Its aim is to assist healthcare professionals to support families, by empowering patients to open a dialogue with their children about their diagnosis. When children feel able to talk openly about death and dying in a safe and age-appropriate way, they are better equipped to cope with the situation and their grief.

“For families at this time, it’s incredibly difficult. It is such a difficult conversation to prepare for – they could have very young children who are going to grow up without their parent. To initiate that conversation entails a huge amount of anxiety. So, supporting and guiding them through that, trying to help them to understand what to expect, even what words to use, really helps.” – Sophie explains.

“The Ruth Strauss Foundation training,” Sophie adds, “gives nurses and HCPs the grounding to nurture an environment where families can talk about death in a positive way.”

The Benefits of No Conversation Too Tough Training Programme

During the day-long workshop, attendees learn about evidence-based approaches to grief, communication styles, family dynamics, and assessing a family’s readiness to open up, among other key topics.

Throughout No Conversation Too Tough we use various techniques and tools to explore ways of facilitating sensitive conversations, enabling nurses to draw on their own life experiences.

“There were so many valuable learning points, like models of grief or talking about how children at different ages may express their emotions,” Sophie recalls. “But for me personally, the most helpful thing was knowing there are organisations I can refer people to for extra support when I feel that maybe what I’m doing is not quite enough.”

The Ruth Strauss Foundation offers numerous resources for nurses to use directly with their patients and share with families for them to explore together in their own time.

Sophie adds: “I’ve been able to signpost these to people, so they know it’s there when they’re ready. They can reach out at any time, whether it’s here and now, or weeks or months down the line. There is always that safety net.”

She also found it useful having resources that HCPS who have completed the training can use themselves and discuss with their colleagues.

“I’ve been able to share the learning points and resources with my nursing team, but also with my consultant colleagues, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.” – Sophie states. The training and information provided by the Ruth Strauss Foundation benefits all healthcare professionals.

“Making sure that every healthcare professional feels they can support patients to have difficult conversations with their children is so important and makes a real difference. Thanks to the Ruth Strauss Foundation, it is possible.” – Sophie concludes.

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