Nursing students at Byron Family Medical Centre make cancer screening reminder calls to patients

Nita Rrafshi, nursing student placed at Byron Family Medical Centre, LHSC

April 3, 2024

Starting in the spring of 2023, an ongoing initiative from the South West Regional Cancer Program (SWRCP) is providing nursing students from Western University with the opportunity to experience placements at community physician clinics in the region, to make cancer screening reminder calls to patients. One of the participating clinics is London Health Sciences Centre’s (LHSC) Byron Family Medical Centre.

The initiative began in the spring of 2023 and aims to increase cancer screening participation rates in the colorectal, cervical and breast cancer screening programs. These nursing students assist in scheduling appointments for pap tests for cervical screening, sending FIT (fecal immunochemical test) kits through the mail for colorectal screening and encouraging patients to reach out to an Ontario Breast Screening Program (OBSP) screening location to schedule a mammogram. These students are also able to book the appointment if requested.  

Layal Alaeddine, Nurse Practitioner at the Byron Family Medical Centre, worked closely with the student nurse, “Even though the Byron Family Medical Centre is an outpatient clinic, since we are a part of LHSC, we are a teaching centre as well. We welcome students on a regular basis, and we were excited to welcome Nita to our team so she could make those crucial cancer screening reminders to our patients.”

Nita Rrafshi, a nursing student from Western University, was the first student to make these cancer screening reminder calls to patients at Byron Family Medical Centre, “I was excited to participate in this placement because I wanted to contribute to improving patient outcomes by being a part of this important cancer screening initiative.”

The placement

Rrafshi was at Byron Family Medical Centre once or twice per week over the summer of 2023 making cancer screening calls to the many patients rostered at the medical centre. She came to the placement with prior experience working with electronic medical records (EMRs) which helped with her seamless transition into making the cancer screening reminder calls.  

Rrafshi was provided a script for the calls and was able to answer some key questions from patients regarding the purpose of the cancer screening reminder and the next steps to take should they agree to move forward with screening.  

Stephanie Coleman, Registered Practical Nurse at the Byron Family Medical Centre shares that, “Having Nita at our centre helped my workload when it comes to making these calls and performing follow-ups. Nita was a wonderful addition to our team and her contributions were so valuable for our centre and the patients we serve. I was able to focus on my other work duties as well as the follow-ups for patients who needed assistance with next steps after their call with Nita.”

For Rrafshi, the placement exceeded her expectations. She found the experience valuable because it helped increase her understanding of cancer screening and its importance and helped her practice patient communication skills in a health care setting. “I learned the importance of proactive cancer screening and how impactful effective communication with patients can be. The placement at Byron Family Medical Centre helps give students an opportunity to learn how to use a popular form of electronic medical record keeping, which I also found very valuable.”

Moving forward

After the initial pilot of this initiative, the plan for Byron Family Medical Centre is to continue having a Western nursing student placement make cancer screening reminder calls to patients as an important component of preventative care.

“The main thing that was demonstrated through this placement was the important roles nursing students can play in different avenues in health care,” explains Alaeddine. “Having a nursing student make cancer screening reminder calls in the hopes of increasing crucial cancer screening is beneficial for patients and clinics. The placement is a great way to connect our future nurses with physicians and clinics in our communities.”

The SWRCP continues to partner with Western University providing nursing students with the opportunity to engage with patients in community-based clinics, like the Byron Family Medical Centre and the Thames Valley Family Health Team, to make cancer screening reminder calls to eligible patients. At this time, the second cohort of students have already begun their placements.  

Initiating cancer screening conversations in primary care is important because this is often the first point of contact with the health care system for many people. Being able to make those connections with patients can help catch some cancers early, which in turn helps improve treatment and outcomes.