Monday 24th August 2020

"There have been lots of changes within the hospital during the pandemic, and understandably policies for visiting and having people stay in hospital have had to be adapted, so it’s essential we continue to advocate and ensure that our young people get the specialist support they need."

Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Coordinator Caroline

Youth Support Coordinator, Caroline

Virtual relationship building and support

"Lockdown came at a time when we had a lot of newly diagnosed young people who I hadn’t met face to face. That meant the only way to build relationships with them was virtually or on the phone.

"A huge part of building trusting relationships is people seeing your face and your expressions and getting that human connection, so I’ve done lots of one-to-one video calls with young people, where I can talk to them about things like body image, sexuality, relationships, or anything they might need practical or emotional support with.

"We’ve also started a new Facebook group for young people, which we’d wanted to do for ages – the coronavirus situation actually gave us that push to go ahead with it.

"We’ve had lots of fun activities like photography challenges, guess the baby competitions and weekly tasks like ‘make a picture of your face out of food!’ The sense of community, peer support and social interaction it provides is so important to young people."

Pulling together to face the challenge

"The first few days of lockdown were really challenging. We had to think of new ways to ensure we met the needs of our young people.

"So much of what we do as Youth Support Coordinators is about spending time with young people, getting to know them and building relationships, and every young person has different needs.

"So we’ve just had to be creative, think on our feet and ask what young people want, which is actually a big part of our job anyway.

"Of course it’s been tough at times, but our approach of 'coming together and making the best of it' has really influenced the young people I’ve supported. A couple of young people are doing makeup courses online, some have learned to crochet, taught themselves to bake or learned a language, things which they might not have done if it wasn’t for Covid.

"And professionally, having regular virtual meetings with the other Teenage Cancer Trust Youth Support Coordinators around the country has been really valuable."

Planning for an uncertain future

"I can bring young people from adult wards onto the teenage unit and spend a bit of time with them on there so we can do some socially distanced activities.

"We won’t be able to get a group of young people together and do anything like playing a board game for a while yet. But maybe we can do virtual Monopoly between rooms or something like that – it’s just about being creative!

"I can’t really envisage what the next few months will be like, but the key thing is maintaining the ‘teenage and young adult ethos’. We know it’s different times, we know it may never be the same again, but within all the new rules and ways of working, it’s important we don’t forget that young people’s needs are very different to adult cancer patients.

"I’m really proud of how we’ve pulled together. There hasn’t been a minute of the day when I’ve felt I have nothing to do. But I’m missing the unit – I couldn’t ever say I could do my job from home."