In last month’s issue of The Oncology Nurse-APN/PA (TON), we published a letter from Cindy Covington. Cindy, an infusion nurse from Georgia, was responding to MMA’s “The Devil Is in the Details” column (see the TON April issue). MMA discussed how some of her needs as a hospitalized patient were not met and she thought her nurses should be able to help. Cindy’s letter and MMA’s article inspired our reader poll: Do you think the role of oncology nurses has changed when it comes to meeting the basic care needs of patients?
The comments were varied, although almost all respondents agreed that the role of the oncology nurse has changed. One commenter said “the tasks mentioned in the MMA article are outside the art and science of nursing….The business of nursing has been elevated to caring for patients in a highly technological way, and unfortunately providing the services mentioned in the article is not what nurses are taught in nursing school. Cutting toenails is the business of either a family member or a podiatrist….These tasks are certainly nice—but I am not aware of any institution that would advocate for the cutting of toenails of any patient, let alone one getting chemotherapy.”
How do we balance the expanding role of nursing with the expectations patients have about their basic care needs? Cindy noted in her letter that “nurses have had to wear so many new hats that it has become nearly impossible to fulfill the patient’s basic needs.” MMA had to leave her hometown, and therefore the majority of her support network, to receive treatment at one of the nation’s top cancer centers, where she was often hospitalized for weeks at a time. How can we, and our institutions, help these patients? There are no easy solutions and these are difficult issues to address in the changing healthcare environment. As MMA said, “the devil is in the details.”