Alberta Cancer Foundation

Meet a Clinical Educator

Illustration of Katie Philpott by Jennifer Madole.

As medical technologies and cancer research evolves, so do best practices in oncology. Working behind the scenes at cancer centres across Alberta, clinical educators are registered nurses who are briefed regularly on changing procedures, and tasked with communicating developments effectively to medical staff. Katie Philpott, a clinical educator at Lethbridge’s Jack Ady Cancer Centre, speaks to helping the flow of education in cancer centres, the importance of ensuring standardized care province-wide, and how clinical educators benefit both patients and doctors.

Q: What does a clinical educator do?

As clinical educators, we are involved in new staff orientation, annual nursing education and supporting staff with ongoing learning needs. We support staff with daily clinical questions and issues that arise. We participate in provincial initiatives, from planning to implementation and evaluation. We also support/encourage staff to have an evidence-based practice and promote professional accountability. If there’s any change of practice it would come to us, and then we would decide how to take that forward [to the medical staff].

Q: What is an example of how changes in practice are implemented?

We have some medications that are only given by IV, but a year ago we started giving that medication also by [subcutaneous] injection. So that is something that would come to us, and then our group would figure out how we’re going to carry out educational resources for the nursing staff. [We’d also determine] how to get that information to the patients, because some of the patients who are already on that drug by IV can now have it by [subcutaneous] injection, which is much faster for them, so their time with us is lessened.

Q: How are clinical educators kept up-to-date about changes in the medical community?

We are informed by leadership and our interdisciplinary health-care teams on new evidence-based policies and practices. We are also involved in different working groups and committees to stay informed on changes within health care. As educators, we are also able to attend conferences for updates on new treatments and practices.

Q: There are clinical educators throughout Alberta. Why is this important?

As there are 17 cancer centres throughout Alberta, and all sites function differently, educators work together to standardize our practices across the province, knowing that each site has its differences. In order to give the same level of care to patients, no matter the site, staff require the same level of support and education. We want to make sure that a patient who was treated in Lethbridge or a patient who is treated in Calgary is going to go through the same stream of education and treatment that they would at either site.

Q: How does your work behind the scenes benefit patients?

Everything that we bring forward is all evidence-based, and everything that we strive for is patient-centered care. For instance, I’m part of a Patient Experience Committee where we actually have three patients who have gone through their [cancer] treatments. We now sit down with them once every two months, and we just discuss different things that they may have had issues with during their journey. We try to take those issues or concerns that they had during their treatment and make adjustments that will help future patients to have a more streamlined journey throughout their own oncology experience.

Q: How does your work benefit doctors?

The majority of communication for our physicians comes from the medical director. [But] if the physicians have questions regarding [any] changes, [educators are] often who they will reach out to.

Q: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

When you can roll something out and have everyone just be appreciative of it — because change is always scary in the health-care system. So, to have to bring about change, and have it go smoothly, and people understand and be open to it — that is rewarding. That means I have done well with the information I have presented and brought forward to them.