“She is super smart, highly qualified, and handpicked by your physician.” Our patient care coordinator often says this when she's on the phone talking face-to-face with patients to set up their next office visit. She encourages patients to accept their upcoming appointment with our nurse practitioner (NP). In our region of the country, patients often have an old school mentality and only want to see the doctor. Sadly, if our energetic patient care coordinator cannot convince patients of the great opportunity, they may miss out on one of the best medical secrets in oncology.

Our company has been using NPs since early 2000. NPs are tremendous assets to the field of oncology. Our NPs perform duties similar to most NPs across the country, including chemotherapy teaching to patients, clearing patients for chemotherapy treatments, and providing urgent survivorship and palliative care visits. NPs are also on call to the infusion room for treatment reactions, and some do patient rounds in the inpatient setting.

But this is not what I feel sets them apart and makes them the best kept secret. They are nurses—once a nurse, always a nurse. They continue to demonstrate compassionate bedside nursing with advanced practitioner knowledge. This makes them fantastic! We have NPs who have backgrounds in visiting nursing, clinics for the homeless, in naturopath clinics, and of course, oncology nursing. They bring that knowledge and all of those resources to patients with cancer.Bringing another view of care enhances patients' plans of care.

Many patients want to know what they can do to help themselves throughout their cancer journey. They often ask about nutrition, exercise, supplements, or acupuncture, and the secret resource NP has the recommendations and the resources to empower patients. This empowerment makes patients feel stronger to fight the cancer battle. Patients don't want to feel like victims but rather warriors. Sometimes they want choices, and many times the NP gives them that choice. Instead of writing a prescription, the NP may pull out a secret weapon and suggest the patient try alternative methods like vitamin E for hot flashes or melatonin to aid in sleeping. And when the time is appropriate, they empower patients to control their end-of-life experience by stopping treatment and changing focus on how they want to spend the time they have left.

As long as NPs are undervalued in the community they will continue to be one of the best kept secrets in oncology medicine. Patient care has exponentially improved with NPs as part of the medical team, and I am privileged to work with these outstanding nurses.