Adult hospitals and treatment centres in Australia

When it comes to hospital and treatment centres, teenagers and young people facing cancer have a unique set of needs. Where a young person is treated will most likely depend on their age. If you’re a young adult, you’ll go to an adult hospital. However, teenagers can be sent to either a children’s hospital or an adult facility.

What hospital you go to may also depend on where you live or even what type of cancer you have. Not all hospitals offer cancer treatment, so you may have to travel, especially if you live in a regional or rural area.

Some Australian hospitals have dedicated units or wards especially for teenagers and young adults with cancer, staffed by specialist medical teams. Talk to your local Youth Cancer Service for more information.

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. Cancer Advisor has various resources on treatment including how treatment effects the body, nutrition and wellbeing. However, we also have content that covers chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

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, the DVD series you missed, or even work if you have the energy.
While most young people stay in hospital at least a few nights initially, they can also be treated as outpatients – someone who comes in just during the day for treatment. Many people cycle through different stages of treatment both in hospital and as outpatients.

You could start as an inpatient for the initial period and surgery if needed, and then move to being an outpatient for treatment.

If you’re travelling a long distance to support a young person through treatment, you might be concerned about where you’ll stay. There are services that can help with accommodation, including:

You may also qualify for the patient transit scheme or equivalent in your state such as IPTASS for New South Wales or VPTAS in Victoria.  Ask the hospital social worker about your options.

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 or work 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 for maintaining relationships.

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

There may be 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 ATSI liaison officer for Indigenous Australians.

You may also be wondering about what to ask the people who are taking care of you. We have various resources with questions to ask your treating team.

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.

The Cancer Council has information in several languages and a translation service on 131450. Redkite can also connect you with an interpreter service. 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.

Cancer Advisor is also looking for more content from families or young adults who live in rural or regional areas. If this is you please share your story or recommend a resource.

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