Oncology nurses bring meaningful experience to caring for vulnerable patients every day, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Not only are dedicated nurses working tirelessly to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in communities across the country, but they are also continuing to provide high quality care to those battling and recovering from cancer. The compassion of nurses helping patients navigate serious illness is an exceptional quality, and continually inspires and brings hope.
Donor support is central to the ability of the Oncology Nursing Foundation and the Oncology Nursing Society to fund specialized oncology nursing education, research related to caring for those with complex health conditions, as well as wellness and emotional support to nurses in these times of elevated stress and public health need. Providing these powerful resources and opportunities to oncology nurses creates lasting impact not only in the professional development of nurses, but also in the lives of their patients. Read these truly extraordinary stories from oncology nurses across the country.
"Once a nurse, always a nurse."
-Laura Benson, RN, MS, ANP
On March 25, 2020, Laura Benson, RN, MS, ANP, told CBS national news audiences from a New York health facility that she is out of retirement and back at work, volunteering and lending her skills to caring for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. A trustee of the Oncology Nursing Foundation and a 35-year member of the Oncology Nursing Society, Laura said with pride and a smile, "Once a nurse, always a nurse."
"When we get a call to react to something so monumental, nursing steps up to the call."
-Dawn Neuhauser, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, OCN®
Dawn Neuhauser, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, OCN®, is executive director of Ambulatory Nursing at City of Hope in Duarte, California. As a nurse leader, Dawn says she is humbled to work with an amazing team of nearly 300 nurses across multiple service lines who pulled together to prepare for and manage the care of patients with cancer during the pandemic. "Working and supporting my team through the pandemic has been a validation for me that when we get a call to react to something so monumental, nursing steps up to the call," she said.
"One of the most difficult things we had to do for patient safety was to implement a major shift in the visitor policy. This goes completely against how we practice as oncology nurses, that is, treating the patient and family as a whole. At City of Hope, we have always maintained a culture of openness. So, we got creative using communications technology, like FaceTime, to support patients and families being together. Additionally, screening helped us focus on who really needed to be in the building to help maintain important patient connections to family."
Dawn describes the initial weeks of the pandemic as filled with long days and stress. Daily huddles and touchpoints with her team have been critical, as well as nurse wellness measures. "The experience of keeping our facility coronavirus-free during the pandemic has given nursing an opportunity to shine, reminding so many of us why we became nurses," Dawn said.
“Trying to keep our patients safe has always been and will always be my top priority."
- Jennifer O’Brien, RN, BSN, OCN® Millford, MA
An Oncology Nursing Society member since 2014, Jennifer O’Brien, RN, BSN, OCN®, has worked in medical oncology for the last nine years. She serves as President of the Southern New Hampshire ONS chapter, and is a past awardee of an Oncology Nursing Foundation Congress Scholarship.
Jen recently began working as an oncology nurse navigator in the Dana-Farber Cancer Clinic at Milford Hospital in Massachusetts. In her role, she educates and tracks patients through their oral chemotherapy treatments, assists them with FMLA and disability paperwork, and triages incoming clinic calls.
“Since the COVID-19 pandemic has started, the majority of my time at work has been spent discussing the pandemic with our cancer patients. My fellow oncology nurse navigators and I would describe the bulk of our days as talking to our patients who have screened positive from a questionnaire and setting them up for COVID screening. We also speak to our patients on the telephone about whether it is safe to come into the clinic for their cancer care and address their worries about treatment delays. Trying to keep our patients safe has always been and will always be my top priority.”
Oncology nurses are skilled at helping patients cope with the fears and anxieties that accompany serious illness, which is being felt even more in the pandemic context. With their special knowledge of caring for vulnerable patients, oncology nurses such as Jen bring meaningful experience to navigating cancer care during the pandemic in our communities.
“Our team learned new roles and skill sets, remaining flexible and without compromising the delivery of high-quality oncology care.”
- Jennifer Frith MSN, RN, OCN, NE-BC, Clinical Operations Director, Inpatient, Oncology and ABMT, Duke University Medical Center
Identifying the potential impact of COVID-19 on our highly immunocompromised patient population, and with the support of hospital leadership, the decision was made to provide care to our Blood and Marrow Transplant patients in their home and local housing. The goal was to decrease any unnecessary potential exposures for this high-risk population. The nurses and advanced practice providers all learned how to provide this new care model safely and effectively. Our team learned new roles and skill sets, remaining flexible and without compromising the delivery of high-quality oncology care. Because of the team’s dedication and effort, we have kept our patient population COVID free through this pandemic.
Oncology nurses bring meaningful experience to caring for vulnerable patients in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. Not only are they working tirelessly to mitigate the effects of the pandemic in our communities, they continue to provide quality cancer care to those with and recovering from cancer. They do this with compassion, easing the fear and anxieties that patients experience as they navigate serious illness. Forever, they inspire and bring us hope.
Our nurses need our support more than ever now, and the Oncology Nursing Society and Oncology Nursing Foundation continue to develop the resources, tools, and other support needed to sustain the oncology nursing community through these difficult times and beyond.
Please consider a gift to the Oncology Nursing Foundation. Through your generosity, we can continue to fund specialized oncology nursing education and research related to caring for those with complex health conditions, as well as provide wellness and emotional support to nurses in these times of elevated stress.