Main image: Dr Sam Cox receives the Swansea University Medical School Clinical Teacher of the Year award
Newly-qualified doctors can now give better quality care to cancer patients thanks to a double award-winning initiative.
It has transformed their training to guarantee they gain experience of a wide variety of cancer emergencies.
They also spend time shadowing consultants in their outpatient clinics and multidisciplinary teams.
And senior medics hope that as well as benefiting patients it will encourage more young doctors to specialise in oncology.
The enhanced training is being provided at the South West Wales Cancer Centre at Singleton Hospital, Swansea.
It was devised by clinical oncology registrars Sam Cox and Emma Christopher.
They realised that with just a one-week placement in the oncology department during their four-year training programme, the experience gained by Swansea University medical students could be hit and miss.
To complete their placement successfully, students have to learn how to manage four different emergencies that cancer patients might experience. These include an overwhelming infection known as neutropenic sepsis and malignant spinal cord compression, when a tumour presses on the spinal cord and nerves.
But unless patients were admitted with these conditions during their placement they would not gain the experience.
So Sam wrote a one-hour tutorial based on four real but anonymised patient cases and a step-by-step guide for the students. This ensured they were guaranteed the required training in these cases and was delivered on a weekly basis by the oncology registrars.
She also arranged for several consultants to host the students in their outpatient clinics so their experience was not limited to the ward.
All of this, together with a new timetabled and structured approach to the week and a glossary of oncology terms she produced, won her glowing feedback from the students.
They reported feeling better prepared to care for cancer patients as they entered clinical practice.
The initiative won Sam the Swansea University Medical School Clinical Teacher of the Year award and the Undergraduate Education, Innovation and Excellence Prize from the Royal College of Radiologists.
Sam, who now works at Velindre Cancer Centre in Cardiff, said: “This simple yet rewarding project has not only improved medical student training but also enabled the registrar doctors to gain teaching and leadership experience.
“I hope it has demonstrated that involvement in medical student teaching has real benefits, not only to our patients but also the department and the next generation of junior doctors.”
SWWCC Consultant Clinical Oncologist Sarah Gwynne said: “We know there’s a national shortage of oncologists, so we want to be able to attract students as early as possible in their training.
“We think it’s a really great specialty as there are a lot of options. I was inspired as a medical student to do oncology.”