A Big Title for a Big Job

Rebecca Pahl (Beck) and Elizabeth Virgo (Liz) are the ‘dream team’ in the Children’s Cancer Centre at Monash Children’s Hospital.

As Family and Community Resource Liaison Officers – a big title for a big job – they provide the practical, non-clinical support to patients and families not typically provided by clinical, nursing or allied health professionals.

At a time when most conversations revolve around the patient’s treatment or diagnosis, the support Beck and Liz provide receives a warm welcome from children and parents alike.

“Emotional support is vital for children and adolescents with cancer, as everyone experiences things differently and often require different levels of support,” Liz said.

“It can be an escape – if they are needing one – and can provide a sense of positive distraction,” she said

Distraction activities are worth their weight in gold in the Children’s Cancer Centre and can take many forms, such as music therapy (funded by the Foundation since 2003), craft sessions or special visitors coming to the hospital.

“These activities benefit patients because it can help them to have fun and forget about where they are and why,” Liz said.

“The feedback we hear from parents is that when they see their child engaging in these kinds of activities it provides a sense of relief, especially if they have been feeling particularly down or unwell,” she said.

As part of their role, Beck and Liz provide support to not only the patients, but also importantly to the parents.

“We provide respite to parents by spending time with their child while they have a conversation with medical or nursing staff,” Liz said. “Or just by giving them the opportunity to have some much needed break time.”

The Children’s Cancer Foundation has funded the Family and Community Resource Liaison Officer role since 2007 and recently provided additional funding to extend this invaluable position, with Liz joining Beck in supporting families. Formerly a Play Therapist (funded by the Foundation from 2007 to 2015), Liz started in her new role in March/April 2017.

Together, Beck and Liz make a good team and the funding extension means that they can now offer more support to their patients and families, as well as increase their capacity to support staff.

“We are very lucky to have the support of the Children’s Cancer Foundation in funding the unique position of the Family and Community Resource Liaison Officer,” Liz said.

“I think this role is so beneficial to the day-to-day atmosphere of the centre, particularly for the patients.

“Having the opportunity to spend time with patients in a capacity that brings a lot of positive interaction and distraction is pretty great. I feel very privileged,” she said.

Find out more about Beck Pahl.