Last updated: October 19, 2020

When the COVID-19 novel coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, in a matter of days clinicians were scrambling to find novel ways to screen, triage, and provide telehealth interventions to protect patients with chronic conditions who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19. As nurses, we are accustomed to helping patients in crisis acclimate to a changing environment, process large amounts of information, and have their psychosocial needs met.

The COVID-19 pandemic presents new challenges that nurses may not feel prepared or equipped to help their patients navigate. During tenuous and uncertain times, nurses must consider their patients’ psychosocial and mental health and get back to what makes us so trusted among patients and caregivers: therapeutic communication and comprehensive psychosocial considerations.

Psychosocial Strategies and Self Care

Oncology nurses can use patient-centered strategies to promote mental and spiritual wellness when their lives are upended. Helping patients and caregivers manage fear and uncertainty is where nurses shine.

  • Review effective coping strategies. Patients may want to engage in mindful meditation, tai chi, or yoga practice from the comfort—and safety—of their own home.
  • Encourage virtual support groups or clergy visits. The Cancer Support Community provides resources for online support.
  • Remind patients that it’s ok to take a break. Constant engagement with social media and the news is overwhelming and may increase anxiety. Suggest that they disconnect and read a book or journal.
  • Encourage patients to stay in touch virtually with their family and friends to prevent the negative effects of social isolation, and tell caregivers to check in with patients, especially older adults.
  • Recommend taking walks outside and other forms of exercise that incorporate social distancing.

Remember: you are not alone; we are all in this together. ONS is your resource for professional support and guidance. Get ideas for psychosocial care on the Oncology Nursing Podcast and learn more about COVID-19 on the ONS resource page. Finally, ask questions and discuss solutions with other nurses on the ONS COVID-19 Community so we can all figure this out together.