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Celebrating Oncology Nursing Month: A Time to Honor Dedicated Professionals Who Touch So Many Lives

May is Oncology Nursing Month, a time set aside to honor our special medical professionals who have dedicated their careers to serving cancer patients. There are many different types of oncology nurses throughout The US Oncology Network (“The Network”), including those who work in infusion, radiation, surgery, gynecology, research and management, as well as nurse navigators and patient educators.

Oncology nurses make a difference in patients’ lives every day by being their advocate and educator, guiding them through treatment, celebrating their victories, and providing comfort in times of need―all while ensuring the patient receives the best care possible. The US Oncology Network thanks all of our compassionate, highly-skilled professionals who not only provide exemplary physical care, but also offer psychosocial support to patients and their families throughout the care continuum.

Focus on Nurse Navigation

With many practices in The Network participating in a variety of value-based programs, we have seen significant growth in nurse navigator positions, an area of oncology nursing that focuses on care coordination. The nurse navigation concept is not new, as navigation was first introduced in 1990. Over the years, much effort has gone into defining and delineating the responsibilities of this role. A primary responsibility is to ensure the treatment plan for each patient is fully implemented by all members of the care team. Navigators typically organize “patient care conferences” or “huddles” when the patient’s treatment plan and any unmet patient needs, both physical and psychosocial, are reviewed by the multidisciplinary team. Additional services for the patient, such as a referral for social services, financial counseling, advance care planning or procedures at an outside facility may be identified during this discussion. Smooth transition of care from one provider to another is a key milestone of value-based care. Nurse navigators manage the day to day operations to make that possible, assuring handoffs are smooth and seamless, ensuring the best patient experience.

Nurse navigators play a key role in patient advocacy and engagement, both of which drive and support patient empowerment and shared decision-making. Nurse navigators, as well as other types of nurses, engage patients through education that empowers them to ask informed questions, request the care they desire, and self-manage symptoms when possible.

The Oncology Care Model, along with other value-based programs, is bringing the role of the nurse navigator to the forefront. There is growing recognition that the critical activities outlined in these various programs must be addressed and that providers must do a better job of offering these vital services to patients. Nurse navigators―highly skilled professionals who blend and balance expertise with compassion―are an effective solution.

During Oncology Nursing Month, we once again want to recognize and thank our oncology nurses, as well as the dedicated clinical staff members that assist and support them in providing compassionate quality care. For those nurses not interested in navigation, The US Oncology Network offers many other rewarding oncology nursing opportunities. The Network is committed to supporting the growth and professional development of all our nurses and clinical staff who strive tirelessly every day to help us reach our goal of providing the highest quality patient care in a community setting.

Beatrice Mautner, RN, MSN, OCN®
Sr. Director, Care Delivery
The US Oncology Network