Nurses Advocate for Palliative Care, Drug Parity by Sharing Patient Experiences
With our heads held high, Michelle Santizo, RN, PHN, MSN, and I walked right into Capitol Hill, ready to tackle meetings with important members of the U.S. Congress. On that day in July 2019, we spoke with staff members working for the offices of both Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA).
Bipartisan Reps Reintroduce Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act
In divisive times, fewer congressional bills find their way to the president’s desk without considerable bipartisan support. The dance of legislation is complex. Maneuvering through the legislative terrain and avoiding political landmines requires partnerships, expert data, and—at times—a little bit of luck. In the case of the Cancer Care Planning and Communications Act (H.R. 3835), that’s the story so far.
CDC Offers Insight to Mental Health and Cancer
As health care advances, so too does our understanding about the numerous conditions affecting patients, including their mental health and well-being. Messaging from federal agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about mental health is taking an inclusive, wholistic approach to the many aspects of mental health. CDC presented new educational applications for providers to consider when talking to their patients about mental well-being and their continued success in treatment.
Nurse Meets With New Hampshire Lawmakers to Connect Them to ONS Health Policy
While representing ONS in June 2019 at the National Institute for Nursing Research in Bethesda, MD, I met with my state’s congressional delegation to introduce ONS’s health policy legislative agenda to their offices on Capitol Hill. Despite it being one of the hottest days on record for the nation’s capital, the congressional offices offered a cool place for health policy discussions.
No Place Like It: Home Care for Patients With Cancer
It’s more than just four walls and a roof. Home is where most people find comfort, solace, and a sense of familiarity. It’s where the heart is, and there’s no place like it. With advancements in cancer therapies, treatment care modalities, and technology, many of today’s patients are finding they can receive a large portion of their care in the home. Home care is not a new concept—rather it’s likely the oldest healthcare setting in human history—but it can be a complex and intricate care environment, especially when addressing specific needs related to cancer treatment. At its heart are expert oncology nursing professionals who safely deliver the best possible care for their patients—in the comfort of their own homes.
Advocacy Grows Through Personality as Well as Profession
The word advocacy comes from the Middle English word “advocacie” or “intercession” and the Anglo-French word “advocassie,” meaning “pleading.” As a profession, I believe nurses pride ourselves as being advocates for our patients and their families. I can easily say that most nurses—myself included—think of advocacy in terms of daily practice. We’re always making sure patients have the right resources and knowledge and have their basic needs met to get through their daily treatments.
What’s ONS’s Stance on Oncology Nursing Certification?
For many RNs working in oncology settings, certification might seem like the next step for their career and their commitment to patient-centered care. It’s important to understand the process of certification, along with what resources are available to help them succeed. ONS believes that oncology nursing certification benefits everyone in the cancer care continuum—from patients to family members to the nurses themselves and their employers. Certification shows that a nurse has voluntarily met the rigorous requirements for gaining cancer-based knowledge and experience and is prepared to provide high-quality, competent care to patients with cancer. It acknowledges a nurse’s commitment to career development and dedication to patient care in a constantly changing healthcare environment.
The Value of Oncology Nurse Certification
Oncology care is a complex field in a constant state of paradigm shifts, where new information and research affect clinical practice in countless ways. Amid rapid developments in treatments, technologies, and patient-care modalities, oncology nurses must show they’re up to date with emerging knowledge in their field. Oncology nurse certification is one way nurses can demonstrate their commitment to the art and science of patient-centered oncology care.
Prevent Important Information From Getting Lost in Translation
At the heart of patient-centered cancer care is communication and understanding, and oncology nurses have a responsibility to ensure that their patients have all the information they need to successfully navigate their cancer journey. But what happens when language barriers inhibit the flow of information between patient and practitioner?
Nurses Must Help Patients Use Cannabis Safely
Regardless of their own feelings or biases about cannabis, nurses must recognize that their patients are using it and help them to access the drug safely, Eloise Theisen, MSN, RN, AGPCNP-BC, of the Radicle Health Clinician Network in Walnut Creek, CA, said during a session on Saturday, April 13, 2019, at the ONS 44th Annual Congress in Anaheim, CA. Many patients with cancer are using cannabis and are looking to their healthcare providers for information on how they can use it to reduce their symptoms, she said.
Nurses Play a Pivotal Role as Patient Advocates in the Opioid Crisis
As the current landscape of opioid pain control becomes more complex, oncology nurses remain vital to safe and effective treatment. During a session on Wednesday, April 10, 2019, at the ONS 44th Annual Congress in Anaheim, CA, Tonya Edwards, MSN, MS, RN, FNP-C, of the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, and Timothy Tyler, PharmD, FCSHP, FHOPA, of Desert Regional Medical Center’s Comprehensive Cancer Center in Palm Springs, CA, discussed the challenges of opioid pain management as well as actions nurses can take to protect patients.
Health Policy Begins With You: Educate Your Representatives in Cancer Care
As an oncology advanced practice nurse and administrator for cancer services, every day I care for patients and caregivers coping with cancer. I mentor nursing staff in best practices to deliver care, and I create a work environment conducive to advancing quality cancer care. However, my commitment to supporting people with cancer does not end at the walls of my workplace. Oncology nurses are called to be a visible change agent in our communities—and beyond—to continue the worthy work of championing quality care for people diagnosed with cancer, along with spreading prevention and early detection information.
FDA Oncology Center of Excellence Establishes a Commitment to Patients
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) mission is primarily to protect the American public by regulating the sale and development of consumer items like cosmetics, food, tobacco products, medication, and much more. However, a lesser known arm is FDA’s Oncology Center of Excellence, established to further prevention, detection, patient-centered research, and cancer-specific education.
President Trump Signs Opioids Legislation Into Law
Developed to combat the nation’s opioid crisis, a comprehensive opioid addiction bill has finally made its way to the president’s desk. On October 25, 2018, President Trump signed the opioid package into law. The new law allots more than $8 billion to address addiction, drug trafficking, and recovery issues.
GOP Pre-Existing Conditions Bill; Biden in Pittsburgh; McCain’s Healthcare Legacy
As the Affordable Care Act is challenged in court, 12 Republican Senators signed a letter insisting that pre-existing conditions be covered in any new healthcare laws moving forward. Despite initial praise for the GOP, many patient advocacy groups, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, have voiced concerns about the efforts being far too little and far too late. On September 4, 2018, more than 25 patient advocacy groups came together and released a statement condemning a recent Republican bill stating it didn’t provide enough protections for pre-existing conditions, compared to what’s currently covered under the ACA. The advocacy groups noted the bill's outlying weaknesses and pushed for stronger reassurances.
Oncology Nurses Must Share Experiences, Perspectives to Advocate for Change
As an oncology nurse, I’m grateful to work alongside so many colleagues who bring dedication, grace, and skill to their work. No other industry in the world shares the same frustrations or emotional tolls as nursing, but we continue to bring enthusiasm, optimism, and devotion to our daily work. Nurses strive to ensure the best for their patients. It’s the call to patient advocacy that is at nursing’s core.
Why Pretesting Counseling Is Critical in the Age of Consumer Genetic Tests
On March 6, 2018, 23andMe—an at-home genetic testing company—announced their direct-to-consumer genetic test (DTCGT) would include DNA results for the three common founder BRCA mutations commonly seen in people with Ashkenazi Jewish ancestry. This was big news because DNA results for the BRCA mutations had been previously available on the 23andMe panel report until the U.S. Food and Drug Administration removed them in 2013.
Focusing On the Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
Imagine being in a hospital, unable to verbally communicate and having to find a way to get across your basic human needs. As oncology nurses, we take care of a variety of different patients: some able to make their needs known and some who unfortunately cannot.
Financial Toxicity Discussion Needs to Include Undocumented Patients
Financial toxicity in cancer care is an increasingly recognized burden for many patients. Driven by many factors, financial toxicity is often a combination of a patient’s individual characteristics, the costs associated with care, and the overall impact of the illness on a patient’s ability to work throughout the cancer journey. Financial toxicity negatively impacts patient outcomes, and many patients struggle with costs regardless of whether they’re covered by health insurance—this includes undocumented immigrants. Currently, more than 11.1 million undocumented immigrants live in the United States, and they aren’t immune to cancer diagnoses.
Federal Officials Say No to Lifetime Limits on Medicaid; Empowered Patients Are the Future of Health Care; Healthcare Jobs Continue to Grow Faster Than Jobs in the General Economy
On May 7, 2018, the White House told the Department of Health and Human Services to overturn Kansas’s new lifetime limit restrictions on Medicaid. Kansas has been leading the way for states looking to implement restrictions to federal benefits. The state previously implemented work requirements for Medicaid recipients and was trying to impose time limits for how long recipients could receive Medicaid for some time. Had its efforts stood, this would mark a fundamental shift in how the federal program is implemented at the state level.
ONS Member Advocates for Patient Involvement in Clinical Pathways
I was selected to represent ONS as a panelist at the Cancer Innovation Coalition meeting held in Washington, DC in February 2018. The meeting, “Integrating Patient Perspective into Clinical Pathways: A Dialogue Between Stakeholders,” brought together patient advocates, healthcare professionals, and technology stakeholders to address and identify the importance of patient-centered care and involving patients in clinical pathways. The National Patient Advocate Foundation released an article outlining the topics covered in our discussion.
Why Do Oncology Nurses Need to Screen for Financial Toxicity?
It’s beneficial to think about financial toxicity in terms of issues adhering to treatment. Mounting evidence suggests that patients with financial toxicity aren’t adhering to their cancer care. It’s becoming a common side effect of cancer treatment, and patients might be less likely to take treatments their medical team prescribes because of it, leading to substandard care.
Financial Toxicity and Its Burden on Cancer Care
The cost of health care in the United States has been the source of debate for years. Questions range from the extent of Medicare and a Medicaid coverage, how—or if—the government should regulate drug prices, who deserves coverage, and how Institutions collect payments from insurance companies. But often, one important aspect is missing from the numerous conversations on health care, treatments, and financial reimbursements: the patients.
Oncology Nurses Need to Advocate for Access to Quality Care
Specialized Knowledge: Quality Care. This is my ONS presidential platform. In several columns, I have discussed how ONS resources can provide you with the specialized knowledge and expertise to provide quality care. This issue, I’d like to focus on quality care.
Republicans May Aim to Repeal ACA Without a Replacement Plan; Majority of Americans Support Government Health Care; Q and A With New Jersey State Nurses Association CEO
After failing to garner support for the GOP’s healthcare bill in the Senate—known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017—Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) noted that the next strategy for repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) would be to repeal the legislation without any concrete healthcare bill to replace it. In 2015, the Senate already successful voted to repeal the ACA, but it was vetoed by former President Obama. According to McConnell, the 2017 repeal effort would provide a two-year window to ensure a stable transition.
Through Early Detection, We Can Impact Cancer Mortality
Earlier in 2017, a group of 12 nurses traveled to Cuba to learn about cancer care and the healthcare system there. Cubans are very proud of their healthcare and educational systems, which are offered without charge to their citizens. We learned so much on this trip, but my take-home message from this experience was the importance of prevention and early detection.
Best Practices for Managing Patients in Palliative Care
Palliative care is a patient-centered approach that seeks to optimize quality of life. Advocacy is also important, which includes incorporating patient and family goals into the care plan, promoting communication, actively managing symptoms, promoting and nurturing transcendence and hope, eliminating patients’ and families’ fears of abandonment, and being therapeutically present. At the Oncology Nurse Advisor Navigation Summit, Bonnie Freeman, DNP, RN, ANP, CT, ACHPN, a nurse practitioner in the Department of Supportive Care Medicine at the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, CA, discussed the best strategies related to palliative care.
Bipartisan Cancer Parity Drug Legislation Introduced in U.S. Congress
Two members of the House of Representatives have put political party differences aside and introduced bipartisan legislation that requires health insurers to cover traditional chemotherapy, along with oral medications associated with cancer treatment. U.S. Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ) and Brian Higgins (D-NY) have proposed the Cancer Drug Parity Act (H.R. 1409). The intent of the bill is to ensure appropriate oncologic treatments are affordable and covered for patients with cancer.
The Story of Henrietta Lacks Sheds Light on Ethical Considerations in Genetic Testing
Imagine a situation where a patient’s tumor cells were used for countless scientific experiments—without the patient’s informed consent. Safeguards are in place today to prevent such an ethical breach, but in 1951 Henrietta Lacks and her family weren’t as lucky. Author Rebecca Skloot shared Henrietta’s story in a 2010 nonfiction book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, that was adapted into a movie released on April 22, 2017.