How Does ONS Support Nurses Who Care for Older Adults With Cancer?
By bringing together gero-oncology experts from the ONS membership, staff, and leadership, the ONS geriatric oncology group is identifying gaps in geriatric oncology nursing research and care and connecting ONS members with available resources targeting this vulnerable population. Adult patients with cancer—aged 65 and older—already make up a majority of patients that oncology nurses see. Despite the population’s prevalence throughout cancer institutions and clinics, many nurses are not acutely familiar with the specialized care required to successfully help them navigate their treatment.
Currently, 60% of all patients with cancer are aged 65 and older, and that number is expected to rise to more than 70% by 2040 (https://doi.org/10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-16-0133). All oncology professionals need to understand the complexities associated with caring for older adults with cancer, so ONS established a group of expert members and staff to identify those needs and develop appropriate tools and resources.
In 2018, they delivered a poster presentation at the 43rd Annual ONS Congress in Washington, DC, highlighting the work of geriatric clinics. In it, they provided a summary experience of what a stand-alone geriatric clinic entails, how care differs from traditional sites, and what nurses can potentially incorporate at their home institutions (https://ons.confex.com/ons/2018/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/3544).
The geriatric oncology group also developed a supplement for the December 2018 issue of the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing (CJON) addressing educational needs of nurses caring for older adults with cancer. Contributions for the CJON supplement went well beyond the members of the ONS working group, pulling on the in-depth knowledge of subject matter experts throughout the ONS community. Articles featured information about frailty and its implications on practice, how lung cancer affects older adult patients, transitioning patients to postacute care, and financial toxicity among older adults with cancer. Edited by ONS member Ashley Leak Bryant, PhD, RN-BC, OCN®, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the supplement provided a comprehensive overview of gero-oncology nursing and also won a gold award for Best Special Supplement from the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors.
At the 44th Annual ONS Congress in 2019, the geriatric oncology group held a panel session with a pharmacist and two nurses. The session covered cancer screening for older adults, polypharmacy, geriatric assessment, and other important topics. The panel discussion was recorded and is available to oncology nurses at congress.ons.org.
Currently, the ONS geriatric oncology group is identifying new opportunities to develop programs, resources, and tools to support oncology nurses caring for older adults with cancer. The group’s central focus is to respond to ONS members’ needs as they care for patients with cancer after age 65. Members are encouraged to share their ideas with the ONS geriatric oncology group by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.