Cancer nurse coordinator role shifts focus to patients

13 November 2013

WDHB cancer nurse coordinator Andrea Dempsey-Thornton
Having spent the past six months focused on improving the Whanganui District Health Board’s (WDHB) reporting system for patients undergoing diagnosis and treatment for cancer, Andrea Dempsey-Thornton is now shifting her focus to the support of patients and their families through the challenges ahead.
Mrs Dempsey-Thornton is one of 57 cancer nurse coordinators appointed to district health boards (DHBs) this year as part of the Ministry of Health’s Faster Cancer Treatment initiative.
While larger DHBs are focusing on cancer-specific journeys for people with breast or lung cancers for example, smaller DHBs such as Whanganui are relishing the opportunity to establish a more generalist role.
This sees Mrs Dempsey-Thornton working with people from the moment they are referred to her with suspected cancer, through to their treatment if a cancer diagnosis is made. 
“The start of a person’s cancer journey is a very anxious time,’ Mrs Dempsey-Thornton says.  “Attending specialist appointments, undergoing investigations, being diagnosed and being presented with treatment options is very daunting for most people.
“Having cancer nurse coordinators such as myself available to provide support and information is hugely important. 
“I work alongside a range of WDHB health care staff including oncology specialist nurses and social workers, who are also here to support patients with cancer. We also work closely with the Cancer Society who provide practical assistance as well as advocacy and advice for people diagnosed with cancer.” 
Mrs Dempsey-Thornton says that while most patients come to her through referrals from GPs, or DHB medical and nursing staff, anyone who wants support or information around their cancer investigations and treatment is very welcome to contact her directly on 06 348 1235, ext. 8182 or by emailing