Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and City of Hope National Medical Center, in Duarte, California, are hosting a program to train nurses to work more effectively with cancer survivors. The program, funded by a five-year grant of more than $1.4 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), will help educate nurses from across the United States on how to identify cancer survivors’ needs and help patients and their families achieve the best possible quality of life after treatment.
The inaugural East Coast training session for 50 nurses began yesterday in Tarrytown, New York, and will continue through Saturday, September 29. The annual program will alternate between East and West Coast venues for the next three years.
“As an institution dedicated to cancer care, Memorial Sloan Kettering has an important role to play in educating and training nurses in survivorship care and research,” says Mary McCabe, Director of Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Survivorship Initiative, who is an oncology nurse and a co-principal investigator for this initiative. “Cancer survivors have such unique healthcare needs, and educating nurses about those needs can help prevent an unnecessary lapse in their care.”
The Spectrum of Survivorship Care
There are nearly 14 million cancer survivors living in the United States, according to the NCI, and experts predict that number will continue to grow as the population ages. Survivors often require specialized care, including monitoring for new cancers, addressing fertility issues following treatment, and managing treatment-related chronic conditions, such as heart disease, anxiety, or depression.
“It’s wonderful that so many cancer patients are able to return to normal lives in their communities, but there are many factors to consider when caring for a cancer survivor: identifying and managing the late effects of treatment, promoting healthy interventions such as diet, exercise, and tobacco cessation, or simply communicating with a patient’s primary care physician,” says Ms. McCabe.
Nurses are often at the center of helping patients transition from active treatment to survivorship. Each year, the new NCI-funded program aims to train 50 competitively chosen nurses from a variety of cancer healthcare settings, including private practice offices, small community hospitals, and comprehensive NCI-designated cancer centers. The curriculum will build upon the multidisciplinary survivorship care provided at Memorial Sloan Kettering and City of Hope.
In particular, the program’s workshops will focus on preventing new cancer diagnoses through healthy lifestyles, determining when survivors should have screening tests like colonoscopies and mammograms, following up on potential short- and long-term side effects, and communicating with survivors.
Tailoring Survivorship Care to Individual Healthcare Settings
Over the next few years, the program will give 200 nurses an in-depth look at the spectrum of survivorship care, from current issues to ways of measuring the quality of survivorship care.
According to Ms. McCabe, one of the benefits of the program is that it will help nurses determine the most effective way to develop survivorship programs and implement survivorship care into their personal practices – rather than taking a “one-size-fits-all” approach.
“Large cancer centers have extensive resources and built-in infrastructures that allow nurses to follow patients in a multidisciplinary environment,” she explains. “If a community oncologist doesn’t have those resources available, communication to other providers about a patient’s medical history and treatment becomes incredibly important to the management of their follow-up care, including prevention, surveillance, and intervention.”