By Jill Beavers-Kirby, DNP, MS, ACNP-BC
ONS is a wonderful resource for public policy initiatives, and I am grateful for the ability to raise awareness for the important aspects of oncology nursing. In late June, I had the opportunity to wear two advocacy hats: one for ONS, and one for the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship (NCCS). It was an incredible experience to walk the halls of the U.S. Congress to help educate elected officials and their staff on legislation that affects cancer care.
In particular, we spent our day asking congressional offices to sign onto the Planning Actively for Cancer Treatment (PACT) Act, (H.R. 2846). Introduced by Rep. Lois Capps (CA-24), herself a nurse, and Rep. Charles Boustany (LA-3), a surgeon. The PACT Act would establish a new Medicare service to provide patients with cancer care planning at the time of diagnosis, when there is a significant change in treatment, and at the end of active treatment as they’re beginning long-term survivorship. The bill would also improve the coordination of care for Medicare patients with cancer. We can all see the immediate benefits for cancer patients the PACT Act would have if passed into law.
I met with my state’s US Senators, Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) to explain that most cancer patients do not receive a written plan that describes their diagnosis, prognosis, treatments, and expected symptoms. The void often leaves the patients to navigate the complexities of a cancer diagnosis without clear direction or expectation from their care. The message resonated with the respective officials. Where this bill may go, I am not sure. But I can be certain of this—my voice as an oncology nurse was heard and listened to. I am more committed to the effort than before, and I encourage you to do the same in your state.