The Oncology Nurse Provides More Than Just Medical Treatment

October 31, 2008
Keli Rising

Oncology nurses play an important role in assisting patients who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Oncology nurses play an important role in assisting patients who have been diagnosed with cancer. The patients’ first reaction is often fear. However, patients who have breast cancer may be concerned with a different type of fear—“they may fear losing themselves in the process of treatment.” Because nurses are typically the ones who interact most often with patients, they become part of a patient’s support system. The care nurses provide goes beyond just treating breast cancer; they have the ability to help patients “improve their chances for survival and their quality of life.”

Fran Reichel, RN, head of the oncology clinic and care management teams at Cancer Treatment Centers of America, said that the “impact of surgery, losing a breast, losing hair, those are important to… women.” Because of this, some patients will “take a long time making a decision for treatment because they are afraid of the side effects.” This is when nurses must juggle the role of providing their patients support, but also explaining to them the importance of getting treatment. In fact, there are some nurses who decided to become nurse navigators. These nurses are available to guide the patient and their families through diagnosis and treatment. Mary Cahill, a nurse who works at the Beth Israel Medical Center comprehensive breast services department, said that nurse navigators are called in after a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer to offer comfort, support, and guidance. A social worker may also be called on, and women are often put in touch with fellow breast cancer patients who can offer their own unique brand of support. Reichel said, “We offer our patients access to a cancer-fighter network” which comprises a group of patients “who have agreed to talk to other patients or prospective patients about their experience with their own disease process.”

Oncology nurses are more than just care providers; they also give patients much needed mental support.

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