Attendees from the ONS 41st Annual Congress were invited to write a blog post to share the Big Change they experienced as a result of attending Congress. Congratulations to Mandi Webb, RN, BSN, on submitting the winning post and receiving a free registration for Congress 2017!
By Mandi Webb, RN, BSN
The 2016 ONS Congress in San Antonio, TX, was a whirlwind! It was such a great opportunity to meet and network with fellow oncology nurses who share a passion and interest in the field that outsiders just can’t understand. The entire conference was so full of new and exciting ideas that I don’t even know where to start.
My field of practice is radiation oncology, so I was very interested to hear the research presentation given by Helena Viveiros, RN, BSN, OCN®, entitled “Taking it Head On: An Oncology Nurse-Led Team Approach to Decrease Treatment Delays and Hospitalizations in Head and Neck Cancer Patients.” My practice has seen an increased frequency of radiation toxicities in head and neck cancer patients lately. This leads to hospitalization and missed treatments. The main objective of attending this session was to learn as much as possible about these unique patients with the hopes of decreasing toxicities and hospitalizations while increasing compliance and quality of life.
It was interesting to hear that Viveiros’ team was nurse-led, because nurses are the frontline of cancer care. We are the ones the patients confess their concerns to so they don’t “bother the doctor.” We are the ones that see them every day as they pass through the hallway on their way to treatments, and we get to know their personalities and quirks. As a result, we’re the ones that need to know where to get the resources to quickly implement plans to alleviate their side effects and prevent adverse outcomes. I found the system used by Viveiros and her colleagues to be very easily implemented.
As a result of the presentation by Viveiros, I was inspired to create a “Head and Neck Care Kit” for each head and neck cancer patient that comes through our doors. This project was approved through our company’s director of nursing as a potential project to be used company wide. The kits will include a soft bristle toothbrush, fluoride toothpaste, and samples of things such as Mugard, SalivaMax, OraMagic, and Xylimelts. By providing these on consult day, it gives the patients an idea of the products that can be used for their side effects, as well as the knowledge of how to use the products so they can intervene on their own behalf.
These head and neck care kits come with free educational materials from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research about radiation and dental care. We are also aggressively referring patients for dental clearance prior to starting radiation, as well as obtaining referrals for gastric feeding tubes to be placed early on in radiation.
Patients are then referred to a local parenteral nutrition company for a dietician consult and home health agency for education on caring for and feeding through their tube. It is our hope that our patients will experience fewer significant side effects leading to fewer hospitalizations and fewer missed treatments.