Brianna McCoola

Brianna chose to study the Graduate Certificate in Adolescent Health and Wellbeing and is now advocating change in youth cancer care.

image of Brianna McCoola

Meet Brianna

What led you to study Adolescent Health and Wellbeing?

In 2010 I was working as a Radiation Therapist at the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital. I had recently treated a young person, and I remember being caught off guard by their response to finishing treatment. I felt a lack of understanding for what this patient was feeling and wanted to change that within myself.

Soon after, I saw a flyer for the program and I decided to apply for the course, specialising in Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) cancer care. I was also lucky enough to be the recipient of a Canteen scholarship.

Studying part-time over the course of a year, I found myself using new knowledge about biology, adolescent identity and development, and professional relationships and boundaries in my everyday practice.

What is the most significant change that happened for you, as a result of doing this course?

Since completing the course, we have established a team of interested Radiation Therapists who also wish to increase their knowledge around better care options for AYA patients. The first change we implemented was improving our patient education strategies and spending longer with young patients before their treatment. We knew familiarity and support would help patients feel more comfortable, and aid them to adhere to the requirements of Radiation Therapy.

Radiation Therapists are not the main players when it comes to AYA health in oncology, but the degree gave me the confidence to express my views and voice a narrative to represent my profession within the wider AYA health landscape.

Why is this significant to you?

The course has given me the confidence to advocate for change with colleagues from multiple disciplines who are specialists in the treatment and care of AYA patients. My colleagues now recognise my interest and expertise in this area, which has given me the opportunity to implement changes to help patients and their families when they need care and consideration.

What difference is this making?

In 2018 the Sony Foundation announced they would be funding a YouCan Centre at the RBWH, to provide a recreational space for Young People to access during treatments. With a new passion and bank of knowledge, I began working as a part of the RBWH Multidisciplinary Team to develop initiatives around using this space for allied health consults, and soon became part of the steering committee for the YouCan Centre. Our department has also established the Radiation Therapy AYA Special Interest Group and the seven members have over the past two years increased their professional education and expertise in AYA care and are currently embarking on several projects to improve the treatment experience for young people coming into our service.

AYA oncology is a globally recognised subspecialty of cancer care, however the implementation of tailored health and wellbeing support for these patients can often be overlooked. This course has given me the confidence to start making the changes I wanted to see in our Hospital. Families are supported through a large network of health care professionals who are invested in helping young people, and I credit this program for giving me the knowledge and confidence to become a champion in this field.

Learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Adolescent Health and Wellbeing

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