Nurses Week takes place May 6 – May 12 and spotlights the millions of nurses across the country who devote their lives to helping others in their time of physical, emotional and spiritual need.
Nurses play an essential role in oncology care, especially throughout the community-based clinics that make up American Oncology Network (AON). They forge meaningful, trusting relationships with our patients — as well as with their families and caregivers — and provide comfort and hope to those battling through some of the most difficult and scariest times of their lives.
While the role of an oncology nurse has expanded and changed over the years, one thing remains constant: the complete commitment and compassion they have for each patient they help treat.
The Role of an Oncology Nurse
Oncology nurses pride themselves on providing whole-person care, which encompasses nurturing the patient’s spiritual and emotional well-being while also addressing their physical needs. This begins at a patient’s very first visit to one of our practices, where they have a thorough meeting with a nurse practitioner to go over their course of care. When the patient undergoes their first chemotherapy infusion — which can be a frightening and overwhelming experience — the nurse remains by their side to guide them through it.
Unlike those at a hospital, nurses who work at community oncology clinics see the same patients several times a week, giving them a chance to earn their trust and tailor their treatment. For example, if a nurse notices one of their patients isn’t feeling particularly well, they can confer with the physician about IV hydration or perhaps delaying the patient’s treatment until they are feeling better. Most nurses get to know their patients so well that they can tell how they’re feeling just by looking at them.
Along with providing care and support, oncology nurses assess a patient’s health and, in consultation with the physician, decide which members of a multidisciplinary team should be involved with their care. To succeed in this expanded role, nurses must listen to their patients, earn their trust and provide them with the tools needed to get the most success out of their treatment.
Getting Your Nurses Involved
More than 500,000 experienced registered nurses are set to retire by 2022, and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that an addition of 1.1 million nurses will be needed to help avoid a shortage.
While the impact of a nursing shortage will cause ripples throughout the healthcare industry, it will have a greater affect on oncology. Because our nurses deal with patients who are being treated for a potentially terminal illness, many young nurses and nursing students mistakenly believe that working each day at an oncology practice is a sad and arduous task.
This is a misconception that needs to be addressed. The truth is, because our patients rely so heavily on a nurse’s care and compassion, working as an oncology nurse is an extremely rewarding career, and the relationships nurses build with patients can last long after treatment is completed.
To help attract more nurses to oncology, many of our nursing society groups offer scholarships to nursing students with an interest in cancer care. AON practices are also very involved with their local oncology nursing societies, many of which offer free memberships to nursing students. Nurses from our clinics visit local colleges and nursing schools and meet with nursing students so they can get an entry-level view of life as an oncology nurse.
The Power in Joining a Network
Oncology nurses who work in practices that partner with AON benefit from working with a national network.
AON offers several different opportunities for nurses to advance their careers while working directly with patients. We also provide financial assistance for nurses who choose to further their degree and also pay membership and certification fees to help nurses become certified in oncology. AON also pays membership fees for oncology nursing societies, giving our nurses the opportunity to exchange ideas and share new approaches to patient care.
At AON, our nurses take great pride in what they do and understand the role they play in providing compassionate care and support to those who need it the most. They are essential to our ability to deliver high-quality oncology care to patients right in their own community.