Educational Approach Improves Oncology Advanced Providers’ Knowledge and Experience With Immunotherapy

November 12, 2018

As more immunotherapies come to market, advanced practitioners need to know how to prescribe and recognize, triage, and manage immune-related adverse events (irAEs) as well as champion education about the agents’ benefits and risks.

A study found that a bidirectional approach to immunotherapy education was successful in exposing advanced oncology practitioners to the nuances of the new therapies. Una Hopkins, RN, FNP-BC, DNP, Lorna Lucas, MSM, Tara Perloff, Pam Rattananont, MPH, Monique Dawkins, MPA, and Brissan Guardado presented the results in “Bridging the Gap: A Bidirectional Educational Approach for Improving Immuno-Oncology Knowledge for Oncology Advanced Practitioners” as part of the e-poster sessions on November 2 and 3 during the 2018 JADPRO Live ( conference in Hollywood, FL.

A group of multidisciplinary oncology professionals used peer-to-peer learning to enable cancer program participants and expert faculty to share experiences in real time and identify effective practices for treatment implementation. The visiting expert program educated oncology advanced practitioners on the clinical trials and science of immunotherapy, while expert faculty taught about real-world administration.

The program included a series of 10 concentrated, one-day workshops led by a multidisciplinary oncology team, including an oncologist, administrator, nurse, and pharmacist. A total of 307 healthcare professionals attended the events, including 202 advanced oncology practitioners. Nearly half of participants (46%) were registered nurse practitioners. All events took place at community cancer programs nationwide in 2017.

The curriculum centered on evolving challenges, including patient selection, management of irAEs, support for patients and caregivers, and effective approaches for educating clinical colleagues on the intricacies of immunotherapy.

At least 85% of participants said peer-to-peer learning was vital and that they valued the opportunity to connect with experts beyond their own programs who shared on-the-ground immunotherapy expertise. Participants said the exposure shored up their clinical confidence and validated their experiences. The researchers noted that more than 15,000 patients have potentially been reached by participants of this program.

“Workshop participation emboldened staff and provided fresh ideas on how best to achieve their immunotherapy goals,” the researchers noted. One of the goals included staffing a symptom management unit by nursing professionals with irAE expertise who can escalate care as needed.

“The program provides an opportunity to challenge a predominant mindset about what cancer treatment entails and to expose advanced oncology practitioners to the nuances of immunotherapy, which could lead to improvements and optimization of the care and management of patients being treated on immunotherapy agents,” the researchers concluded.

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