Survivorship Care Plans – Oncology Nurses Are the Key

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Are survivorship care plans in oncology important? According to the American Psychosocial Oncology Society president Peter Trask, PhD, they are.

Are survivorship care plans in oncology important? According to the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS) president Peter Trask, PhD, they are. During his talk late last month at the APOS annual conference, Trask discussed the lack of “‘research on what cancer survivors should do,”’ in the years and months after treatment,” and that many of the meeting attendees want it to change. He reiterated the purpose of the APOS conference, “to discuss current and future improvements in the care of the cancer patient and then achieve those aims.”

There were a number of discussions about the importance of improving survivorship care plans (SCPs). Denice Economou, RN, MN, AOCN, project director of the City of Hope, focused on how SCPs are “necessary because of its impact on patient health.” She said, “One of the main problems with survivorship care is that many people and professions [do not even] realize they are providing it.” Support groups, counseling, and tracking exercise and diet are all part of SCP. “All of this is survivorship care,” said Economou, but these providers “just don’t realize it. Giving it a name helps to increase visibility.”

Cheri Rolnick, PhD, MPH, associate director of research for HealthPartners Research Foundation, and Jody M. Jackson, RN, BSN, research project manager for Seattle’s Group Health Cooperative Center for Health Studies, evaluated current SCPs and came up with a couple of recommendations to make them more effective:

1) Discuss psychosocial issues — emotional, spiritual, sexual, and economic

2) Discuss family history and offer genetic counseling and/or testing

3) Discuss comorbidities

Rolnick stressed the important roles that oncology nurses play when establishing and having an established SCP. “We feel that they are key. They are the ones most likely to be talking to patients. They are the ones most likely to set the tone. They are the one most likely to paint the broad picture.”

Jackson agreed, saying, “Input we have gotten from healthcare professionals and cancer survivors themselves indicates that nurses will be an integral part of making SCPs a success; they are viewed as the likely conduit to get the SCPs into patient hands as well as helping provide survivors with the information for their plans.”

Although Rolnick and Jackson received positive feedback from oncology nurses at the Minnesota Cance Alliance, Leigh Anne Faul, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the health outcomes and behavior program at Moffitt Cancer Center, said that time is a major obstacle to oncology professionals’ desire to implement SCPs.

She agreed with Rolnick and Jackson regarding the role of oncology nurses. “I think [these professionals] will play a huge role, partly given the aging population, the increasing survivor group, and the already overburdened health system,” she said. “Oncology nurses are going to be a huge vehicle for survivorship care planning because they have the necessary training.”

Related Resources:

Calling All Nurses: Cancer Survivors Need You

Ensuring Quality Care for Cancer Survivors: Implementing the Survivorship Care Plan

First Report of Internet-based Survivorship Care Plans and Utilization by Colorectal Cancer (CRC) Survivors

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