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Resources

Staying in the hospital for the first time: teenagers

When it comes to hospital and treatment centres, teenagers can be sent to either a children’s hospital or an adult facility.

When it comes to hospital and treatment centres, teenagers can be sent to either a children’s hospital or an adult facility. Where you live and what kind of cancer you have can dictate what kind of hospital you go to. Not all hospitals offer cancer treatment, so you may have to travel, especially if you live in a regional or rural area. Some hospitals have dedicated units or wards especially for teenagers and young adults with cancer, staffed by specialist medical teams.

Here’s some information which might help make things a little less overwhelming.

If you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, or about to be admitted into hospital you may be wondering about what treatment will be like. Some young people end up in hospital very quickly once they are diagnosed. Depending on the hospital, you could be in your own room or sharing a ward with others. As well as wards, hospitals generally have other areas you can hang out in, like lounges and gardens.

Most people stay in hospital at least a few nights initially, and some for longer. If you are staying in hospital for a long period for treatment, some things you can do to make it more comfortable include:

Bringing in familiar things from home such as photos, posters, your pillows and doonas

Inviting visitors, or if you don’t feel up to it, posting a “do not disturb” sign

Getting online to stay in touch with friends, keep people up-to-date via social media, or check out other cancer stories

Catching up on the books you’ve been meaning to read, binge that Netflix series you missed, or even homework if you have the energy.

Understanding who does what in a cancer treatment team can be challenging. Here’s an overview of what each person’s job is:

Oncologist a doctor specialising in cancer. There are three varieties of these:

Medical Oncologist diagnoses and treats patients (including chemotherapy)

Radiation Oncologist will decide if a patient needs radiation therapy and look after this process

Surgical Oncologist specialises in using surgery to remove cancer

Haematologist a doctor specialising in blood diseases including lymphoma or leukaemia

Consultant a doctor who has completed their specialist training

Registrar a doctor who is completing their specialist training

Resident/Intern a junior doctor who will work with the Registrar

Radiologist looks at and interprets your x-rays, MRIs and CAT scans

Nurses – they can also have different roles:

Registered Nurse (or RN) – a “regular” nurse who provides care in hospitals

Oncology Nurse,  a registered nurse who has specialist training in cancer care

Clinical psychologist,  a trained therapist who can assist with the psychological aspects of dealing with cancer

Cancer Care Coordinator,  a nurse who is the main point of contact for cancer patients and their families, who will help liaise with your medical team

Social worker, a health professional who can support patients and families with emotional, social and practical support, information, counselling, navigating the health system, and making connections to other support services

There may also be people like physiotherapists, music therapists or dietitians who are there to help with some of the challenges or side effects of treatment. These people can form what is called a multidisciplinary team (or MDT) – a team of professionals from all different areas (or disciplines) working together to make sure each young person is getting the best possible care. In hospitals, there are also liaison people such as the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Officer for Indigenous Australians.

Every hospital will have different rules regarding visiting hours, but visitors are generally encouraged. If you are at risk of infection, visitors may need to wear protective clothing like gowns and gloves to prevent the spread of germs.

It can be helpful to try and connect with friends, extended family and school mates. Unfortunately, some people may not visit. If this happens, try and not take it personally as hospitals make some people uncomfortable. Instead, staying in touch by talking on the phone or chatting only might be a better way of maintaining relationships.

While most young people stay in hospital at least a few nights at first, they can also be treated as outpatients – someone who comes in just during the day for treatment. You might go through different stages of treatment, both in hospital and as an outpatient.

Translating medical language can be hard enough at the best of times, but if English is a second language for you or others in your family it can be even harder. There are a number of services that can help.

Most public hospitals will provide access to interpreter services, and your hospital social worker will know more about this.

Depending on your cultural or religious background, you might be worried about having private consultations with a doctor. You can request a male or female doctor or take a family member or friend with you.
If you’re Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, most hospitals have an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Hospital Liaison Officers. They can visit you to explain the hospital system, provide language translation services, advocate for your needs to hospital staff, help access accommodation services, and some hospitals have dedicated spaces for you.

To connect with the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Liaison Service, talk to your nurse or social worker.

If you’re travelling a long distance to go through treatment, you might be concerned about where you’ll stay. There are services who may be able to help

You might also be able to access your state’s patient travel scheme. For more information on this or any other questions around accommodation, get in touch with us with the details below.

We’re here to guide you through, reach out when you need us

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