Innovative Patient Communication at 33rd Annual Congress of ONS

MDNG reports LIVE from days I and II of the 33rd Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society.

I’m at the 33rd Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society and as my first healthcare conference, it has been quite an experience. With so many great presentations given at the same time, I’m forced to decide which ones to attend and determine the best time to leave one to make it to another.

Day 1Yesterday I spent time viewing the poster presentations and walking around the exhibit hall, and attending the podium session “Innovative Patient Communication.” The moment I walked into the exhibit hall I was bombarded with huge signs and booths of the major pharmaceutical companies. In fact, there was one booth that featured something that looked like a bicycle you find at the gym, but without pedals. In between these monstrosities were small booths, most of which were found at the end of each aisle. What’s interesting about this is that I found these smaller booths to be more informative because there weren’t tons of people walking around because everyone else was hanging out in the huge luxurious booths. If this is what I think about this small exhibit hall, I can only imagine what I would think if I walked into the one at a huge meeting like ASCO.

Innovative Patient Communication

The four presenters discussed the importance of treating the whole patient and the various programs available at their different institutions to educate patients, family members, and caregivers. The presentation that stuck out most in my mind was “Using a Patient Portal for Electronic Communication With Oncology Patients: Implications for Nurses,” which discussed how patients are eager to communicate with nurses through e-mail because it is so simple and efficient. Since the Internet is not secure, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York designed a patient portal where patients and oncology nurses can e-mail through a secure connection. Although physicians are less inclined to use e-mail to communicate with their patients, nurses are more open to this idea.

Day 2

Today, I’ve attended two of the 10:30-12:00 sessions—“Utilizing Home Care Nursing Services to Optimize Outcomes for Oncology Patients” and “Overcoming Health Disparities Through Patient Navigation”—with another two more this afternoon.

Overcoming Health Disparities Through Patient Navigation

This session was really impressive. The role patient navigators play and how they are slowly becoming an integral part of healthcare was discussed. Three programs featuring patient navigators were discussed; two of them are nationwide programs and the other one is based at Denver Health in Denver, CO called “Community Voices.” In fact, Denver Health was the recipient of a car given by one of the participants of Oprah Winfrey’s new TV show, The Big Give.

There were a couple of really interesting questions asked upon completion of the session, but the one I found to be the best was, “What’s the difference between patient navigators and nurse navigators?”

Patient Navigators

  • Focus on prevention
  • Start to work with patients immediately following diagnosis
  • Identify information needs
  • Teach patient the skills to communicate with their provider

Nurse Navigators

  • Provide patients with clinical information
  • Offer support to the patients, in addition to family members and caregivers

It appears that the running theme throughout the sessions I’ve attended so far is the importance of treating the whole patient. This idea has been stressed by all of the session presenters.

One thing that I’ve enjoyed at the conference is learning more about the oncology nurse’s role as part of the oncology treatment team. I lost my grandmother to lung cancer when I was very young, so this is truly a helpful experience because I’m now able to understand the treatment she went through and all of the people who treated her.