Meet Emma McKinnell - Breast Cancer CNC

Friday 10 July 2020

Meet Emma, The PA Hospital's Breast Cancer Clinical Nurse Consultant

As a breast cancer clinical nurse consultant at the PA Hospital (PAH), every day for Emma McKinnell is different, but every day is focused on helping patients have better outcomes.

With her role supporting breast cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, targeted treatments, or radiation, Emma not only runs her own clinic but keeps her phone handy to field calls from concerned patients chasing answers and reassurance from home.

Emma McKinnell is different, but every day is focused on helping patients have better outcomes.

"My role covers the whole spectrum, every day is slightly different, Tuesday is the craziest day because that's our clinic day, and we've got lots of patients who come in for their treatment or their reviews," she said.
"You have plans for the day, but things change as you support patients, through whichever part of the treatment they're on. Whether that be face-to-face, or whether that be over the phone.
"Generally, you'll get calls from patients, or GPs, or the treating team may have new issues that they need you to look at."

With a large percentage of her caseload being patients with metastatic disease, where cancer has spread beyond the breast and lymph nodes and into other areas, Emma sees hope, joy, and sadness on a regular basis. But with experience comes resilience and enjoyment of the variety her role brings and the fact that due to developments in treatment, these patients are living longer.

"You meet a whole range of the population, a whole range of people. Everybody's a bit different and how they manage their diagnosis is individual, but I particularly enjoy the survivorship elements of my role," Emma said.
"Obviously, that's where the Queensland Cancer Wellness Initiative (QCWI) comes in, as well.
"Survivorship is not just the patients with curable disease. A big part, for me, is also making sure those patients that are living with their cancer, also benefit from survivorship.
"Now we're keeping people very well for a long period of time so making sure that they get to enjoy the time that they have.
"There is a lot of research now looking at survivorship, in order that we improve this part of care and have greater links with GPs and primary care."

As a member of the PAH based QCWI team, which offers a range of activities to patients to improve their physical and mental health, Emma is an advocate for the benefits of keeping active.

"The wellness work that we have at PA is fantastic, pulling together the work we do with the physios and OTs, improving patients' activity levels and quality of life," she said.
"We know that exercise, whether it's before diagnosis, or keeping active and managing fatigue whilst on treatment or living with cancer can benefit in terms of how you tolerate treatments. In addition to helping to maintaining a healthy diet, these factors may reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.

Crucial for Emma and other members of the QCWI team is that their work and their research are patient-centred, which also includes research into what barriers patients face in accessing QCWI services.

With research helping to improve survival rates for people diagnosed with breast cancer Emma is a big believer in its importance and it's potential to help her patients.

"In terms of survival rates, you know, research is a big part of it, whether that be research around different treatments, or also support for patients when they're on treatments, as well," Emma said.
"The PA Foundation, it's playing a big part in looking, not just for breast cancer, but the QCWI and the research that we're doing around that. Research comes in lots of different facets."