Your nurse plays a vital role in supporting, educating, coaching and providing care throughout your experience with blood cancer. Clinical research nurses, oncology nurse navigators and clinical and palliative care nurses alike have had to adapt their practice to help slow down the spread of COVID-19.
Since the start of the pandemic, nurses have been doing everything in their power to protect their patients from infection and be as proactive as possible in this extraordinary situation.
Specific health recommendations have been made for oncology nurses on such topics as how to care for their patients with neutropenia, how they are assigned within hospitals, how they administer antineoplastic treatments1 and how they can protect themselves2. Individual hospitals have also developed their own procedures for healthcare professionals.
Nurses themselves have shown innovation in changing the way that they practice their profession. A few months ago, telephone consultation was only in its infancy, but it has been completely transformed since March. Virtual appointments have undeniably allowed nurses to stay in contact with you and also with your caregivers, who are no longer allowed to accompany you at the hospital.
There is no doubt that this virtual contact has provided a safe way to answer many of your questions, ease your concerns and confirm your hospital appointments to administer your treatments. Nurses can even advise you and help you have virtual conversations with your spouses during your oncologist appointments at the hospital. They can also recommend online video training programs to help you or your loved ones learn about all things virtual, such as communication platforms, cell phone use, etc. For example, the organization Wellspring has developed a class on how to use Zoom3.
Of course, virtual communication has its limits—namely, technical difficulties, lack of access to adequate equipment, missed appointments and a lack of personal connection with mobile interactions. Still, virtual contact comes with benefits, including continuity of care, undeniable psychological support during lockdowns, reduced costs for you (transportation, parking, etc.) and reduced stress about making trips. Health assessment questionnaires have also been adapted for virtual consultations.
In some provinces, nurses have been granted new powers, including to sign off on sick leave (in Quebec, for 14 days off for patients who have tested positive for COVID-19), conduct screening tests without a prescription or send prescriptions to pharmacists. Your nurses have gone above and beyond to keep their COVID-19 knowledge up to date.
What can we take away from these first months of the pandemic?
The federal and provincial governments have undoubtedly come to recognize the urgency of investing in healthcare and better supporting the work of nurses. In fact, on November 25, the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer announced its commitment to investing $24.5 million to support innovation in Canadian cancer-related services in the context of COVID-194.
As with past viruses such as SARS and early HIV/AIDS, nurses have learned from their peers, implementing new care protocols and introducing innovative approaches to patient follow-up. What’s more, they have established strong partnerships with community organizations, such as The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada, to bring you better care.
Let’s celebrate their incredible work!