Background and Context:
Patients with head and neck cancer (HNC) are at risk for poor outcomes due to the multimodal nature of treatment plans and high potential for treatment related toxicity. When toxicities are not well managed, symptoms can severely impact quality of life, leading to treatment delays and hospitalization
Whilst there is a myriad of information given to HNC patients along their trajectory of care, processing and embedding it in their daily routines can be a challenge. . As acute toxicities develop, patients often are unable to self-manage and start to spiral downwards. Clinicians must partner with patients to manage toxicities to enable them to thrive during the treatment phase.
Our academic health sciences cancer center considers survivors to be “people affected by cancer at any time along their cancer journey”. With a focus on the active treatment phase, an innovative approach to partnering with patients has been implemented in a collaborative nurse led and Nurse Practitioner managed drop-in symptom management clinic for patients receiving radiation or combined treatment regimes
The nursing team provides care, including focused assessments and treatment of symptoms, as well as education. The model of care that involves forming partnerships with patients and families to enable and empower them to engage in self-management, as they care for their treatment toxicities.
Outcomes/What was learned:
The collaborative role of the Nurse Practitioner and Specialized Oncology Nurses empowers patients in the management of symptoms such as pain, nausea, vomiting, constipation, xerostomia, odynophagia, taste changes, lack of appetite, dehydration and skin reactions. Nurses are well positioned to provide the supportive care requirements during treatment delivery, to facilitate treatment completion so patients thrive to survive.