ACOS CoC Program Standards

The American College of Surgeons (ACOS) recently released clarifications for program standards related to oncology nurse training and patient-centered care in the Cancer Program Standards: Ensuring Patient-Centered Care (2016 Edition) Manual. The updates were effective January 1, 2016, and will impact a number of healthcare professionals in the oncology field. Some of the clarifications may lead to changes of existing standards at current institutions.

The ACOS Commission on Cancer (CoC) and representatives from its member organizations, including ONS representative Carma Herring, RN, MS, OCN®, oncology co-management administrator at the John Stoddard Cancer Center in Des Moines, IA, have worked diligently to revise and update the CoC standards to which programs must adhere to for CoC accreditation. A number of notable revisions and clarifications relate to Standard 2.2 Oncology Nursing Care. 

Updates to Oncology Nursing Care 

“Standard 2.2 Oncology Nursing Care has been in place for decades,” Herring says. “We’re just clarifying terms, particularly with regards to oncology certification versus required training. Some of the language might be confusing to nurses, and we want to make sure it’s clear.” 

Within the Nursing Competency section of the standard, it states, “Oncology nursing certification for all nurses providing oncology care is strongly encouraged. All nurses who administer chemotherapy to patients need documented certification of chemotherapy training for both in-patient and out-patient units.”

Herring notes that a possible misunderstanding might occur in distinguishing whether nurses need an oncology certification to administer chemotherapy. The short answer is no. However, each calendar year they must attend training in chemotherapy administration, and that training must be documented with proof. Some institutions provide such training, or ONS also offers two levels of chemotherapy administration courses: the ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Certificate Course and the Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Fundamentals of Administration Course, both which offer chemotherapy provider cards as proof of successful completion. “This portion of the standard should indicate that nurses need documented proof of chemotherapy training—not “certification” of training,” Herring explains.

However, when 25% or more of the nurses employed at an institution hold an oncology certification such as OCN®, AOCNS®, AOCNP®, CBCN®, BMTCN®, or CPHON® from the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation, the institution has the ability to earn a commendation for Standard 2.2. This was effective starting January 1, 2016, and was established to encourage and reward highly trained oncology nurses for all aspects of oncology care.  

Updates to the Patient Care Continuum

Along with updates to the Oncology Nursing Care Standards, the CoC revised the standards in Chapter 3: Continuum of Care Services. Standards 3.1 Patient Navigation Process, 3.2 Psychosocial Distress Screening, and 3.3 Survivorship Care Plan demonstrate the CoC’s focus on patient-centered care. Nurses will be on the forefront of many of these issues, leading the charge to implement new procedures and practices within these standards. Herring says, “Some of these standards are things nurses have been doing forever. Now they have an outline and structure to work from.” 

More information will be available throughout 2016 as the standards are implemented and rolled out.