Three Major Things Your Oncology Nurse Can Do For You

Oncology nurse

With a breast cancer diagnosis comes many opportunities to get up close and personal with the healthcare system. You meet countless professionals including doctors, pharmacists, social workers, dieticians and administrators but there is no one you will see more than your oncology nurse. Oncology nurses take on various roles within the healthcare team. They may meet with you to provide education on your treatment plan, assess how you are doing at home, administer your anti-cancer medications or care for you while you stay in hospital at your sickest. Oncology nurses care deeply about their patients and are uniquely positioned to support those they serve. While oncology nurses have a wide range of skills, below are just three ways this group can help you as you move through the cancer continuum.

Help You Navigate the System

The healthcare system is complex and constantly changing. This has shown to be a barrier to care for people with cancer. Oncology nurses are fluent in this system and know how to travel through it. They are there to support you as you meet new healthcare professionals, manage multiple appointments and seek out needed resources. While they may not always have the answer, your oncology nurse can likely connect you with someone who does.  

Help You With Symptom Management

Oncology nurses have an in-depth understanding of the impact cancer and cancer treatment can have on the body. They are well versed in side effect management and are there to help mitigate your symptoms.  Whether it is fatigue, GI upsets, problems with your skin or sexual dysfunction, your oncology nurse can likely recommend both pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic interventions for a wide range of issues. Your oncology nurse also serves as one of your greatest advocates. They will ensure your issues are heard and connect you to the various members of your healthcare team to address your concerns.

Provide Psychosocial Care

Your oncology nurse has seen how cancer and cancer treatment can impact the mental health of patients and their families. Often they will be your biggest cheerleader but also, your shoulder to cry on. They will both celebrate and grieve with you. Your oncology nurse is there to listen and to talk about things like body image, distress, anxiety, as well as, relationship or intimacy issues. Your oncology nurse can likely connect you to needed resources both within your healthcare institution and in the community. They also know how to escalate your care in the event of an acute mental health crisis and will be there for you when or if you need them. 

Oncology nurses are often referred to as the glue that holds the cancer care system together. They will help you navigate this system while maintaining your highest quality of life. They are there to listen, treat, educate and support. Remember, your oncology nurse has chosen this profession because they care about the wellbeing of people with cancer. Your oncology nurse is there for you.

Click here to read the Rethink Real Talk Recap: Sex, Cancer And Intimacy, where Samantha was a panelist.

Samantha Scime, RN, MN, CONC, is a specialized oncology nurse with 10 years of experience caring for people with cancer. Recently, Samantha completed her Master of Nursing with a collaborative specialization in Sexual Diversity Studies. Her work has focused on addressing the psychosocial and sexual health concerns of women, as well as, sexual and gender minorities across the cancer continuum. Samantha is currently working as an oncology nurse and advanced practice educator in downtown Toronto. 

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