Positive health and care outcomes rely hugely on the professional practice and behaviours of nurses. (NMC enabling professionalism).

For clinical nurse specialists to develop and keep up to date as practitioners, continuing professional development is essential. Whether through academic or experiential learning, developing core competencies, skills and knowledge can bring a wealth of benefits to the care of those with secondary breast cancer.

In this section we look at:

  • opportunities to develop competencies, skills and knowledge
  • finding funding for academic courses and training
  • making the most of your peers and networking opportunities

Opportunities to develop competencies, skills and knowledge

Professional development helps you to deliver healthcare that meets the changing needs of your patients with secondary breast cancer and improve clinical practice.

Nurses are expected to develop and maintain practice and are required to complete the process of revalidation in order to maintain registration as practitioners through the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

Career and education frameworks can help cancer nurses to plan their professional pathway needs. They may also help nurses to apply cancer-specific knowledge and skills in the management of patients with complex needs, and so contribute to the development of patient services in this specialist field.

Royal College of Nursing and UK Oncology Nursing Society Career and Education Framework for Cancer Nursing

European Oncology Nursing Society Cancer Nursing Education Framework

Finding and funding appropriate methods of professional development isn’t easy. Below is are examples of academic courses that may provide specialist study and update opportunities.  

Study courses

Nurse Prescribing Modules - Cardiff

Nurse Prescribing – Medway School of Pharmacology

Advanced Clinical Health Assessment - Coventry University

Metastatic breast cancer

Principles of Metastatic Breast Cancer Nursing – Royal Marsden School

Cancer as a long term condition – Royal Marsden School

Clinical trials in cancer practice (online module) – Royal Marsden School

Palliative Care

Enhancing care of the dying (online module) - RMH

Palliative Care and Symptom Management - RMH

Acute oncology

Acute Clinical Oncology – University of Liverpool

Communication

Enhancing communication skills in Health and Social Care – Royal Marsden School

Online training  modules and clinical updates

Managing metastatic spinal cord compression (free online module) – BMJ Learning (you’ll need to register for site)

Other helpful sites

ESO

The European School of Oncology aims to contribute to the reduction of deaths from cancer due to late diagnosis and/or inadequate treatment. By improving the skills of all health professionals dealing with cancer patients, ESO helps shorten the time needed to transfer knowledge from research centres to daily practice, combining advanced technology with humanism in care.

Future learn

Online learning offers a new way to explore relevant health and psychology subjects including a range of courses on cancer modules on targeted treatments and palliative care.               

Marie Curie Palliative Care Knowledge Zone

Read expert information, knowledge and support to help you deliver the best possible care for people living with a terminal illness. A range of information for healthcare professionals, relevant to your day-to-day including symptom control. 

Making the most of your peers and networking opportunities

Sharing best practice and networking

There are a number of peer-learning and networking opportunities for nurses working in secondary breast cancer to share ideas and best practice.

Networking

Whilst some CNSs have been providing support to those with secondary breast cancer alongside that of primary breast cancer patients, dedicated secondary breast cancer CNS roles are relatively new in cancer nursing. Often nurses work autonomously and in isolation, so networking with others in similar roles can be crucial in finding peer support and sharing ideas and good practice.

Secondary Breast Cancer Nurses Forum

Breast Cancer Care’s free Secondary Breast Cancer Nursing Group is open to any Breast Cancer Care Nursing Network member (including breast care nurses, clinical nurse specialists, breast care practitioners, research nurses and palliative care nurses) who offers care to people diagnosed with secondary breast cancer. One of its aims is to provide a peer support network opportunity for members, in recognition of the emotional demands of working with people with secondary breast cancer. It also supports nurses’ professional development by providing some clinical updates to count towards Nursing and Midwifery Council revalidation, as well as a host of benefits and opportunities to share best practice with other nurses across the UK.

You can join the secondary breast cancer nurses forum by contacting nursingnetwork@breastcancercare.org.uk

Visit other units

Whether you are new to your role or have been supporting patients with secondary breast cancer for some time, visits to other breast oncology units or undertaking a short placement to observe service delivery can be extremely valuable. Visiting others who work in similar teams or are lone working may give you with new ideas or simply facilitate peer discussion about the challenges you share. It’s always worth defining your objectives before your visit so you can make the most of your time. Recording outcomes and observations are also valuable to share with colleagues as well as for revalidation purposes.

Useful resources

Sharing best practice report

HER2 – Targeted Therapies in Breast Cancer – How to achieve symptom control, prolong active treatment and optimise end-of-life care

Funding for study

Whilst the need to acquire and maintain knowledge, competencies and skills may be obvious, finding the resources to fund academic courses and fund study leave can be very difficult in the current financial climate.

Below are a number of organisation who can provide funding for nursing studies according to the nature and content of this.

RCN Foundation Professional Bursary Scheme – you can apply for a grant to develop your career under the heading long term/chronic conditions

Non RCN Bursaries

As a nursing professional, you can apply for a range of scholarships, bursaries and other funding opportunities offered by organisations outside the RCN.

Florence Nightingale Foundation

Rae Bequest Training and Marcia Mackie Fund (for those working in NI)

Worshipful Company of Needlemakers Educational Bursaries

Macmillan Learning and Development Grants (for Macmillan Healthcare professionals and teams)

The Nightingale Fund

Sandra Charitable Trust