Get to know Alexandra Belchior, Coordinator of the Nursing Team at the CCC
Alexandra Belchior, Coordinator of the Nursing Team at the CCC, tells us the reasons and motivations that led her to become a nurse and all the personalised care that is provided to each of our patients. She even introduces the 1st Champalimaud Cancer Nurse Conference!
Do you remember when you decided that you wanted to be a nurse?
It’s funny: I don’t remember not wanting to be a nurse! It wasn’t for any specific reason, but I like human relations a lot, I really enjoy science and developing my knowledge. I think that it’s a combination of being close and making a difference. I’m talking about an empathetic relationship: we are able to put ourselves in the shoes of another person only if we understand how to make them feel better - that's the difference between being a health care professional and being a friend! When a person is ill, the nurses are the closest health professionals. And the kind of care we provide demands this closeness. This care also has to be not just affective, but effective: it must come from knowledge that can make a difference. We have to be professionals who lead the patient to a place of well-being, both physically and psychologically. Above all, there is a relationship of trust.
In terms of health-care personalisation, how does the Champalimaud Foundation stand out?
We nurses, as elements of the multidisciplinary team, have a standardised response template. What we advocate, in addition to any drugs or medicine, is proper care for each person. A person may have a diagnosis which is very similar to the person who is sitting next to them, but they also have a life story, a personal and professional background and a different, which makes the therapeutic plan different, too. This therapeutic plan comprises all the care that is appropriate to the patient, according to the severity of their illness. The model that we use is essentially particular to that patient: it is always based on the person, not the disease. We treat disease with therapy, we deal with taking care of the person behind the illness. The person who is ill at that moment has their own story behind them: and if all goes well, they will have a story ahead, with some quality of life at its base.
What makes an exemplary nurse?
In the Champalimaud Foundation, since the beginning and from all points of view, we have striven for the patient to have the greatest autonomy possible, and to have a degree of referencing to the Foundation that is not just "I'm going to call the Foundation". Patients can call their PM (Patient Manager - the admin staff who know all about their process), their doctor, but also the nurses. We have the concept of treatment and differentiation of tumour types by different units (and services) and in each we have Unit nurses. These are nurses who are trained to specialise in a particular area. For example, a nurse from the Digestive Unit has a completely different function to a nurse from the Breast Unit. They have the know-how to be a nurse, and a profile that is both normalised, and at the same time personalised. They are "made by Champalimaud Foundation", because they all have the same approach, but they and participating in the allocation of specialist care in the area of the breast or the digestive tract, thus responding better to the needs of the patient who is going through that stage, whether it is surgical, medical, under chemotherapy or radiation treatments.
With this role and responsibility, where do you get your motivation?
Like I said, I like being a nurse. I can't see myself doing anything other than nursing. And I love the aspect of oncology. People are going through a difficult time, and our role is to minimise their suffering. Today, the therapeutic options in the field of oncology and the different approaches are transforming it into a chronic disease - and that's the direction in which we are moving. But of course there are days when we are faced with more complicated situations. And with patients and families who in some way move us. We have the privilege of working at the Champalimaud Foundation, which provides patients, family members, and especially us, the professionals who are working for them, with all the tools for our work to be excellent. My team and I don't have to worry about being able to offer the best possible treatment, because we have a multidisciplinary team behind us that chooses the best approach. So we can focus our nursing activity on being nurses. We have no parallel activities that distract us. We focus on the patient and their family. And in the end we have the recognition of the patient – it just takes a smile, a thank you, or simply the fact that they leave the Champalimaud Foundation in a better situation than when they entered. This is the best reward.
On 2 and 3 June 2016, the 1st Champalimaud Cancer Nurse Conference will be held at the Foundation. What is this meeting about, and why is it being organised right now?
Since activity started here in 2011, we now have 5 years of growth, 5 years of stories, 5 years of pioneering paths and approaches for nursing, alongside all the other elements of the team, but of course Nursing managed, through small steps, to make its own difference. In scientific terms, we have developed projects, work and knowledge that allows us to now open the doors and talk about our experiences. We don't want to say "this is how we do it here", but rather "we do it like this: how do you, our colleagues, do it?", learning together. We have a story to tell and experience to share. We have developed scientific and statistical work that shows our development, our autonomy as nurses, and we want to share it, and discuss it with the national and international nurses. We see great value in this exchange and, if somehow we can help open horizons and encourage people to think of nursing differently, then it will be the icing on the cake. This is the main reason for the 1st Champalimaud Cancer Nurse Conference.