Oncology nurses and specialists gather to share experiences and lessons after another challenging year

  • 9 nursing teams selected to present findings at oncology nursing conference
  • Topics range from new drug therapy to impact of COVID-19 pandemic stress
  • Deputy Nursing Chief to discuss Roswell Park summer education program

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Several nursing teams from Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center were invited to share their research at the 47th Annual Congress of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), which is underway in Anaheim, California, and continues through May 1, 2022.

Among the specialists discussing new developments and challenges in the practice of nursing at the ONS Annual Congress are Andrew Storer, PhD, DNP, RN, NP-C, FAANP, Vice President and Deputy Chief Nursing Officer at Roswell Park, whose oral presentation on Roswell Park’s unique Summer Nursing Research Education Program won a Best of Oral Abstracts in Leadership/Management/Education award.

“There is an increasing demand for nurses, and data show that short-term immersive mentored clinical and research experiences inform decisions by college nursing students to specialize in clinical oncology,” says Dr. Storer. “The purpose of Roswell Park’s Summer Nursing Research Education Program is to orient nursing students into the cancer science career pathway, giving them the skills and competencies necessary to meet the emerging interdisciplinary and integrative approaches to research and cancer care.”

The competitive eight-week program recruited four top senior undergraduate nursing students and offered them a financial subsidy so that they could devote their time to exploring the role of nursing research in the advancement of cancer science. Students were mentored as they focused on an original research project and a final capstone presentation.

“Mentored research experiences during critical career timepoints really help to create oncology researchers,” adds Dr. Storer. “The goal of the program is to spawn interest in nursing research, increase the number of nurses obtaining their PhD, and decrease the timeline to degree completion. Less than 1% of all nurses have a PhD, and those who do obtain an advanced degree do so at an average age of 46, which is 13 years above other disciplines. The ever-growing and diversifying cancer patient population contributes to the complexity of cancer prevention, treatment and survivorship, so the demand for nursing scientists who study methods to improve patient experience and outcomes is stronger than ever.”

The following Roswell Park research is being presented as posters at the meeting:

Unit-Based Mid-Shift Huddles to Improve Outcomes: Feasibility & Implications

Team huddles traditionally happen before a nurse’s shift begins, and these quick group meetings have been proven to improve safety by increasing communication and improving overall team performance. A pilot study by Nicole Smith, RN, Nurse Manager, and presented by Katlynn O’Keefe, BSN, RN, from Roswell Park’s 7 East inpatient care unit aimed to evaluate whether unit-based huddles in the middle of a shift were feasible and effective. The mid-shift huddles, which focused on assessing the workload and stress levels of staff members, as well as potential obstacles shift nurses faced, were overwhelmingly supported by staff. Longer-term results are currently being collected.

Using Therapy Dogs to Decrease Levels of Acute Workplace Stress in Oncology Nurses

Although there are programs available to patients experiencing acute anxiety or stress during cancer treatment, including certified and highly trained and vetted therapy dogs, such programs may not be available to nurses, who often experience high levels of compassion fatigue and burnout while caring for patients. Madeline Rogowski, BSN, OCN, reviewed the literature to compile evidence supporting the design of a therapy-dog program to reduce stress and anxiety among nurses during working hours. This program would recruit nurses through emails and flyers and then ask them to complete the 6-Item State Trait Anxiety Inventory before and after visiting with a therapy dog.

Nurse Perception of Anxiety Management of Oncology Inpatients

Patients with cancer often experience anxiety and stress related to their treatment, especially those undergoing aggressive therapy or long hospital stays. A team of Roswell Park nurses led by Thomas Ippolito, RN, BSN, MS, and including Julie DeLuca, RN, BSN, Kali Bosinski RN, BSN, and Joseph Stabile RN, BSN, sought to identify how oncology nurses working on a dedicated hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) inpatient unit perceive a patient’s anxiety and then to determine potential ways to incorporate evidence-based mindfulness practices that decrease physiological distress and anxiety levels. The team found that all nurses who participated in the study reported that their HSCT patients suffered from increased anxiety during their hospital stay, which was compounded by isolation and stress related to the COVID pandemic. Most nurses reported that this anxiety is undertreated during the inpatient stay and that they would like to integrate nonpharmacologic nursing interventions such as aromatherapy, meditation and mindfulness to treat inpatient anxiety in their everyday practice.

Moral Distress in Oncology Nursing: A Cross Sectional Study of Nurses in a Comprehensive Cancer Center

While caring for patients with cancer, nurses often experience moral distress when seeking to find a balance between administering often-aggressive therapies and preserving a patient’s quality of life. To better understand the level of moral distress and its effects in cancer care, Roswell Park nurses Pamela McLaughlin MSN, RN, OCN, and Melissa Hiscock, BSN, RN, CWOCN, OCN, CPPS, surveyed 100 nurses from nine inpatient oncology units and found that more than 50% of respondents experienced moderate to high levels of distress. Their study suggests that measuring and addressing moral distress among nurses will support an organization to mobilize resources to areas where nurses are experiencing a high level of distress and alleviate costly gaps in staffing.

Development of an Oncology-Specific Nurse Residency Program

Having an oncology-specific nurse residency program is crucial for new nurses who are beginning in or transitioning to cancer care. Roswell Park nurses Jennifer Missland MSN, RN, OCN, CCRN, and Heather Huizinga MSN, RN, OCN, evaluated the impact of the 6-month Nursing Professional Development residency program, which enrolls all newly hired nurses with less than 1 year of experience in oncology, and found demonstrated improvements in nursing satisfaction and nursing retention. New nurses who graduated from the program reported that it eased their transition to practice and increased their comfort in caring for cancer patients.

Nursing Experience with Patients Receiving Sotorasib for KRAS G12C-Mutated Solid Tumors: Follow-Up from the Phase 1/2 CodeBreaK 100 Study

Askia Dozier MS, BSN, RN, CCRC, and Victoria Fitzpatrick FNP-BC, are presenting on their experience caring for patients receiving sotorasib, a novel targeted therapy recently approved for non-small cell lung cancer. They found that nurses can help prevent serious adverse events of therapy by helping patients to identify and manage the effects of treatment, including the use of antidiarrheals, bland diet and fluids for diarrhea, and antiemetics for nausea and vomiting. Their experience has shown that nurses are uniquely positioned to educate and support patients to facilitate continued sotorasib treatment for optimal clinical benefit.

Member Engagement: How does a local chapter continually rise up to meet the educational and networking challenges during a global pandemic?

During the COVID-19 pandemic, when work and training events went from in-person to virtual, attendance at pharmaceutical-sponsored virtual programs was low, and there was fear of losing member engagement, as networking is integral to nursing. Marianne Jerla, RN, BSN, Staff Nurse in Therapeutic Apheresis, explored ways to get members more involved in virtual programs, including simple strategies such as offering food delivery, gift cards and raffles for those who attended virtually, and giving nurses a chance to view meeting events while socializing over Zoom.