Close Print View Issue

Treating patients like family

Macpherson-and-Moores-2-1-(1).jpgStarting a new chemotherapy drug can be a daunting experience. Will the drug work? What will the side effects be? Can I afford these medications? And if the chemotherapy medication is taken orally at home, then the responsibility of making sure the medication is taken correctly adds an additional stress on the patient. This inspired a nurse at Northern Light Mercy Hospital to ease the burden on patients and families.
At any given time, Northern Light Mercy Hospital’s Oncology department has up to 115 patients taking any one of more than 20 oral anti-cancer agents. In response to an obvious need for additional support for this community of patients, oncology nurse Catherine Moores, RN, BSN, was inspired to create a formal program for monitoring and supporting the use of oral chemotherapy.

The basic principles of the program, based on Oncology Nursing Society standards of care, include building strong nurse-patient relationships, repeating information for better communication, ensuring the safety of the medication and removing financial barriers. “We’re protecting their finances, protecting their health, and helping to treat their cancer effectively. It gives our patients the emotional support they need through this journey,” says Catherine.
The program, for which Catherine shares responsibility with colleague Renee MacPherson, RN, ADN, starts with a teaching session for each patient. The three-hour session includes time with a nurse, social worker, dietician, and financial counselor. Once the medication has started, Catherine and Renee make weekly phone calls to each patient to check in during the first month, slowly decreasing the frequency of phone calls over time. The nurses also meet with patients in person when they come in for follow-up visits with their oncologist.
Frequent communication with pharmacists from Northern Light Pharmacy, which dispenses the medications, adds another level of oversight. Since its inception in 2014, the oral chemotherapy monitoring program has been an integral part of Northern Light Mercy Hospital’s cancer treatment services. Catherine and Renee shared the success of their program with a poster presentation titled, “Improving Oral Chemotherapy Adherence (Catherine Moores, Renee MacPherson)” at the fall meeting of the Northern New England Clinical Oncology Society in 2017 (October 27-28, Stowe, VT).
Catherine notes that while oral anti-cancer therapy does have its drawbacks—including increased patient responsibility,cost,and under-reporting of side effects—it also has many advantages. These include increased convenience, less time spent in the provider’s office for treatment, and reduced invasiveness of treatment. For the many patients who are prescribed oral therapy, an effective monitoring program can improve efficacy and reduce complications, ER visits, and hospitalizations. “It’s just as important for me as providing intravenous chemo,” shares Catherine. “It’s good patient care. That’s why I love Mercy—I feel like we all treat every patient here like they’re a family member.”