The Sultanate needs for more nurses trained in cancer care and cancer-related counselling. The Higher Institute of Health Specialties is planning on starting a new programme for oncology nurses to meet the need. “The health sector in Oman is doing a good job in providing cancer treatment in the Sultanate. However, one of the issues that comes into mind when we think of a cancer patient is their emotions especially during the breaking of the news as well as going through the treatment for the survival where there is a need for psychologists who are trained to ensure that the patient first of all accepts the disease and willingly move forward to fight the disease,” said Dr Manal al Zedjali, Dean at the Higher Institute of Health Specialties (HISS).
There is a need for a system to have all of this multidisciplinary team and an important pillar in such a team is a psychologist. “We might have psychologists but they are not that accessible to all the people. We also need people who are trained in tackling the issues of signs and symptoms of oncology, even though we have excellent doctors and nurses who are making sure they are providing the care that is needed. But we do need psychologists on board,” she noted.
She explained the reason why psychologists are vital is because any treatment begins with the patient accepting the disease. “And that is where you need people to tell you that this is happening and let us fight it. Family support is crucial but mental health is important for the treatment of health of cancer patients.”
Currently the Higher Institute of Health Specialties does have a programme for postgraduate Diploma in mental health. “This programme prepares mental health nurses but not psychologists, however the nurses are trained to handle situations where the patients are guided to accept the bad news and how to therapeutically communicate with the patients.”
Nurses who are trained in counselling and psychology use their skills on communication and relationships in dealing with the patients and the colleagues. They play an important role in team building and in making sure the patients go through the treatment.”
The prerequisite to qualify for the postgraduate programme is exposure of six months at any mental health setting. “It takes about nine months — two semesters and a summer session to complete the programme. Throughout the programme they would have gained experience in mental health environment through community settings and health centres throughout the country. Our team is highly qualified and this is the team who will be preparing the nurses to be competent in practicing as mental health nurses.”
The institute also has a postgraduate programme to prepare them for the Masters. “Once the students graduate with good GPA, they will be accepted at Sultan Qaboos University for the programme master thesis on nursing, which will lead them to attain Masters in Nursing,” Dr Manal explained.
She said as part of the modernisation, there is also a huge demand for mental health nurses. The demand can be met through clinics at tertiary level, polyclinics and as well as visiting doctors at some of the hospitals. “In addition to Masarra Hospital, Sultan Qaboos Hospital also has a dedicated department for behavioural medicine.”
The Dean also feels there is a need to meet the demand for oncology nurses. “We do not have a postgraduate programme for oncology nurses at present at HISS but we are thinking about it. We have to remember that cancer has become the human disaster and by 2030, experts are predicting that it is going to be triple the size of what it is today globally compared to what it was in 2010. So we need nurses who are prepared to provide oncology care.”
As of now the nurses go through on job training and send others abroad for oncology training but HISS hope to have their own programme soon.