NCI Blog

Dr Amanda Kracen: Improving Cancer Care while Working at NCI

Posted by Amanda Kracen on 05 March 2024

Dr Amanda Kracen at NCI

This is a guest blog post written by Dr Amanda Kracen, Associate Professor of Psychology at National College of Ireland.

Unfortunately, cancer is still a leading cause of death in Ireland; the good news is that many people live with and beyond a cancer diagnosis. However, it may not surprise you that people are often affected by receiving a cancer diagnosis, coping with treatment, and learning to live as a “survivor.” People can feel scared and vulnerable. In addition to excellent medical care, it is now recognised that people with cancer benefit from excellent psychological treatment and social support.

As such, I feel grateful to be a psychologist who specialises in working with people whose lives are touched by cancer. This area of psychology is called psycho-oncology. For over 20 years, I have worked as a therapist, researcher, and teacher in psycho-oncology and palliative care in the United States and Ireland. People often mistakenly assume that this type of work is depressing or sad, but like many of my colleagues in psycho-oncology, I find the work typically to be life-affirming, hopeful, and joyful. It is truly a privilege to work with people coping with cancer.

The Irish Psychological Oncology Network (IPSON)

Since 2021, I have been able to continue my work as an Associate Professor in Psychology at National College of Ireland (NCI). With NCI’s support, I was delighted to be awarded a Leadership Award (2022/2023) from the Irish Cancer Society to develop the Irish Psychosocial Oncology Network (IPSON). IPSON is a multidisciplinary professional group dedicated to providing excellent, equitable cancer care. This means that we bring professionals (e.g., psychologists, psychiatrists, counsellors, nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists) together to enhance cancer care for everyone across Ireland. IPSON currently has over 350 members across Ireland, and we are very active!

These days, I serve on the HSE’s National Psycho-Oncology Advisory Group, and I am the 2024 President of IPSON. We are hosting IPSON’s inaugural conference on Wednesday, March 13th at the Trinity Centre for Health Sciences, Dublin. Dr Claire Foster, Professor of Psychosocial Oncology at the University of Southampton, is the keynote speaker.

"We are delighted that the conference is sold out a month early! I am especially thrilled that two NCI students are attending the conference."

In addition to my professional service, I am also active in research. My research explores how people maintain wellbeing despite challenging circumstances and systems, considering issues through an intersectional lens; my research has focused on both oncology professionals and cancer survivors. Currently, colleagues and I are conducting a project examining occupational issues for oncologists in Ireland, as well as a project evaluating cancer survivors’ use of a well-known meditation app. I am also delighted to co-supervise a PhD student, together with Dr Rebecca Maguire of Maynooth University. The student, Laura Curran, graduated from NCI in 2021 with a degree in psychology. She enjoyed her undergraduate research so much that she returned to NCI and is pursuing a joint doctoral degree with Maynooth University; her research examines how people cope with the fear of cancer recurrence. Cancer survivors report that worrying that their cancer may return is one of the most stressful challenges that they face; Laura’s research has important implications for how we can support people living with and beyond cancer.

Teaching Psychology at National College of Ireland

I very much enjoy working with psychology students at NCI. I teach the Health Psychology module and the Psychopathology module (a class about psychological disorders), which are my areas of expertise. I am passionate about these topics, and I get excited about helping students learn. When teaching students, I draw on current research, while often sharing examples based on my years of working in hospitals.

"My goal as a teacher is to nurture students’ interests and support their success."

It is a pleasure to talk with NCI students about what excites them and discuss career paths that they might explore. I frequently remind students that they are Ireland’s future leaders as they will be in positions to shape workplaces, organisations, and policies. I hope they will bring what they have learned at NCI – including critical thinking, research skills, and compassion – into their lives and work. It may be cheesy, but I believe that our students help make the world a better place.

Dr Amanda Kracen is an Associate Professor of Psychology at National College of Ireland. Her research interests are in psycho-oncology and cancer survivorship, LGBTQ+ well-being, acceptance and commitment therapy and international psychology.

Topics: Psychology, Full-Time Courses