One of a handful around New South Wales, Jenny Gilchrist lends more than a helping hand as a nurse practitioner in breast oncology.

As a nurse practitioner, Jenny Gilchrist is one of small group of highly specialised nursing professionals in the Australian health care system.

In New South Wales, about 10 oncology nurse practitioners are spread across the State. At Macquarie University Hospital, Jenny is the only one, and the only breast oncology nurse practitioner in Sydney.

After qualifying as a nurse and working as a clinical nurse consultant for several years, Jenny returned to university to get her Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner), a qualification that permits her to carry out a range of ‘doctor-type’ tasks.

“As a nurse practitioner, I’m a blend of nurse and doctor,” explained Jenny. “I am able to physically assess patients, write scripts, order scans – everything a doctor can do.

“But I am still also a nurse, supporting patients from early diagnosis to those with metastatic disease.

“I’m also involved in clinical trials, and am often authorised to be a sub-investigator, a role usually limited to doctors.”

Jenny works closely with Professor Rick Kefford, Head of Clinical Medicine at Macquarie University, who established the role.

“Breast cancer patients follow a complex journey,” said Professor Kefford. “The benefits of having someone like Jenny with those additional skills are immense for both patient and hospital.

“She also brings a unique set of skills and experience to our regular Multidisciplinary Team Meetings in Breast Cancer, which she co-ordinates.”

Because she is on site Monday to Friday from 9 to 5, patients have an autonomous highly experienced oncology practitioner available at all times. Without her, there would need to be a series of communications from nurses to doctors, many of whom move between different hospitals on any given day.

The benefit to doctors include reduced calls and the ability to attend to more urgent work at hand. Patients ultimately experience quicker response times to their concerns or conditions.

“I love my job,” says Jenny. “I am passionate about helping women who have received a diagnosis of breast cancer, and with my additional qualifications feel that I can be of more benefit all round.”

Prior to her current position, Jenny worked in oncology and palliative care for nine years, after completing a Graduate Certificate in Cancer Nursing in 2004. Last year, she completed the Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner) degree, then received the endorsement from AHPRA for her current position.

Jenny is highly regarded in her field of breast oncology. She has been involved in developing national guidelines for the management of side effects associated with everolimus in breast cancer patients and has worked on various other research projects.

She is a regular invited speaker at national and international conferences, including the Multinational Association of Supportive Cancer Care (MASCC) and the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA).