Navigating patients through radiation treatments can be challenging when they are undergoing concurrent therapy. Coordination of multiple providers across different specialties, side effect management, and scheduling can be overwhelming. During a session at the ONS 44th Annual Congress in Anaheim, CA, Dorothy Abshire, BSN, BA, RN, OCN®, of Baylor Scott and White McClinton Cancer Center, Waco, TX, explained how oncology nurses can help patients navigate complicated treatment regimens that involve both chemotherapy and radiation therapies.

Concurrent therapy can increase overall survival rates for patients with cancer and can improve local control because of sensitization from dual modalities, Abshire explained. In complex cancer care, reaching a consensus is essential to delivering the best evidence-based, personalized cancer care and to improving care coordination. Lack of care coordination may result in failure to deliver the right treatment, or the best sequence of multiple treatments, in a timely manner.

Interprofessional teams are essential to providing comprehensive patient care, making teamwork imperative. According study findings that Abshire shared, improving teamwork and communication between healthcare workers decreased adverse events, improved outcomes, and decreased length of hospital stays, which resulted in greater satisfaction for patients as well as healthcare workers. When an effort is made to enhance teamwork, medical errors are reduced and patient safety and well-being are increased. In addition, because a team, rather than one individual, is responsible for a patient’s health, healthcare workers experience less burnout and more satisfaction.

Coordination of care ensures concurrent starts are made, labs are monitored efficiently, nutritional needs are met, appointments are made, treatment timing is appropriate, and the oncology team is alerted to the psychosocial needs of patients and their families, all of which improve treatment outcomes, Absire said. See the sidebar for examples of care coordination for common cancers treated with chemoradiation.

Nurses are the foremost advocators/implementers of this coordination. Practical and consistent steps must be taken to ensure effective coordination. Good tracking systems and cooperative teamwork are crucial to effective care.