Nurses Day 'hero': helping families navigate child cancer

April 2015 Vol 15 (2)

Canterbury's paediatric oncology NP Jan Millar helps families keep their heads above water while they are being swept along by the turbulent current that is child cancer.

Jan MillarJan Millar is a hero to many of her young patients as well as their families, says Canterbury DHB. Millar herself prefers to be seen as a consistent and steady support for families of children with cancer, helping them to navigate along a sometimes very frightening path.

Millar trained as a specialist children’s nurse at Great Ormond Street in the UK. She joined Christchurch Hospital’s paediatric department in 1997 and took on the role of clinical charge nurse in 2001 to establish the Children’s Haematology and Oncology Centre (CHOC). In 2011 Millar started the journey to become a nurse practitioner, which she completed in 2013.

“It’s a very rewarding role… it’s the ultimate really. I get to be involved all the way along and see the patient’s care right through – from the time they are first admitted to the time they leave – and for some patients it can be up to three years later after all their treatment, various surgeries, to then going into remission,” Millar says.

“Seeing different faces all the time can be really daunting for a young child, not to mention parents and caregivers. I can be with them during those times, and also can talk them through it beforehand.”

Millar has extended her practice to the complete management of oncological emergencies. “I can complete the whole process from initial assessment to prescription of antibiotics and fluids. It makes the process simple, quick and very reliable.”

Millar always sees the positives when working with children with cancer and their families.

“It’s a very complex, challenging area for young doctors and nurses who are new to it. I can bring them up to speed and remind them of the positives – when I started in this field in 1981 the survival of children with leukaemia was less than 50 per cent; now, for some types, it is well over 90 per cent.” Amanda Lyver, CHOC clinical director, says Millar has played a key role in the Paediatric Oncology Department since its beginnings at Christchurch Hospital.

“Jan has been a ward nurse, charge nurse manager and is now a nurse practitioner. One of Jan’s great skills is her ability to explain things to parents in a manner that makes what their child is experiencing seem less scary and more manageable – she empowers parents when they are feeling vulnerable.”

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