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Psychologist Westmead

Since 2004 Kids with Cancer Foundation Australia has given $1.3million 
to support this position at Westmead Children's Hospital.

The Oncology Unit's activities are enhanced by the generosity, of the Kids with Cancer Foundation, in funding so many staff positions and providing assistance to needy families, contributing immeasurably to the provision of high standards of safety and quality in the services offered here.

Rhondda Rytmeister, Snr Clinical Psychologist MORE.
The Oncology Unit at Westmead, uses donated funds to employ a full-time psychologist in the department who is an invaluable member of our allied health support team.

The Oncology psychologist is freely available to all patients and their families should they need to talk to someone. The psychologist treats the 'family' as a unit and not just the individual child. The role of the Psychologist is varied and includes the following:
  • Provides counselling and support to children and families who have been newly diagnosed with cancer. Helps them deal with stress management and anxiety.  Families can be particularly under strain if one of the parents needs to give up their job to care for the sick child.
  • Provides therapy for parents to deal with anxiety and depression.
  • Helps parents with behavioural management of their child and children with pain management.
  • Uses CBT (cognitive behaviour therapies) to help children cope with painful procedures, (eg teaches them to push the thought of pain to the back of their mind and train them to focus on being healthy again in the future).
  • Liaseswith schools and helps facilitate the child's entry back into a normal school life.
  • Provides home visits to grieving families (bereavement support)
  • Conducts neuro-psychological assessments
  • Runs weekly discussion groups for parents this is a place where they can talk freely and gain support from each other
  • Helps children (especially teenagers) cope with feeling 'left out' of normal social life
  • Helps facilitate communication between child and parent (eg often a child will know that they are dying, yet the parents don't know the child knows)
  • Aids communication between parent and doctor
  • Helps kids and families who are coming off treatment (often parents think they are meant to be happy as their child is finishing treatment yet they often have fear and anxiety that the cancer will come back)
  • Explores spiritual issues with the families. Often the families start to think about deeper issues (is there a higher purpose for this, am I being punished etc) and often turn to the psychologist just to explore these thoughts. 


2014 case load:155 new referrals, 137 new diagnoses and 28 bereavements 

The Senior Clinical Psychologist works with patients requiring neuropsychological testing, psychological assessment, diagnosis and therapy.  Counselling is provided to patients, and their parents, on a range of issues including behavioural problems, relationships with friends, feelings about appearance and overall self-esteem, confidence in performing physical activities, and pain management. Strategies can include help with: school / educational progress, short-term and working memory problems, planning and organising, problem-solving, self-monitoring and behavioural self-control, as well as anger management. Interventions may involve individual discussion, sessions with one or both parents and the patient, and sometimes with siblings and/or grandparents. Other services provided include:  bereavement support for families, providing both verbal and written reports to schools regarding patient assessments and psychological difficulties, as well as providing educational reports to organisations that provide assistance to students for tutoring, speech therapy or other services.  

The Senior Clinical Psychologist also works closely with parents helping to address their fears and anxieties and continues to support them through their child’s treatment.  Patients who are close to completing treatment or are off treatment, but not yet eligible to attend the Long Term Follow Up Clinic, are also supported by the Senior Clinical Psychologist. 


We urge you to consider the children in a hospital near you.  Please donate, post cheques to: Kids with Cancer Foundation, PO Box 135 Westmead NSW 2145 or for credit cards: free-call any donations to 1800 255522, and we guarantee that 100% of these donations will be passed to families, or use this Donate now button or at the top of the page.

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