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How Pediatric Oncology Nurses Provide Support for Families

Susie Burke, MA, RN, CPNP,CPHON, is the president of the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses. She shares insights that can help families and caregivers supporting a child with cancer.

Susie Burke, MA, RN, CPNP,CPHON

President, Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses

What role do oncology nurses play for those who are battling cancer?

Nurses are instrumental in coordinating quality cancer care. They continually monitor to alert for changes in patient condition. They respond to emergencies, intervening with life-saving measures.  Nurses provide psychosocial support, and educate regarding disease, treatment and side effects.  They are skilled in the delivery of chemotherapy and immunotherapy. They are patient advocates, empowering through intervention. They promote quality of life while instilling hope.

Why should someone consider becoming an oncology nurse?

Pediatric oncology nurses make a difference in the lives of children and adolescents with cancer through application of their knowledge, skill and caring practices. Long-lasting relationships develop as we educate and support patients and families through their cancer journey. Pediatric oncology nursing is a profession that offers constant challenges, professional growth opportunities and life-long learning. 

How has technology assisted in oncology nursing for cancer care and treatment?

Personalized medicine is at the forefront of cancer treatment. We now have the ability to conduct genomic profiling of cancers, matching each patient’s unique profile to known targeted therapies. Currently, not all cancers have targeted therapies available. As we expand the use of genomics, we remain optimistic for development of new treatments, improved survival rates and reduction of long-term sequelae.

How do recent improvements in technology enhance patient experience?

The electronic health record, with the incorporation of patient portals, provides patients the opportunity to engage in their health care through easy access to medical records, availability of test results in real time and the ability to interact with their health care providers through computerized technology. This powerful tool supports a connectiveness between the patient and their health care.

What is one piece of advice you would give to a newly diagnosed patient?

Be well-informed about your cancer and treatment.  Seek out information from your health care team.  Ask questions and give yourself time to absorb the information. Choose reputable sources when searching for health care information. The Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses have disease-specific handbooks available free of charge.

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