It’s week 4 of Breast Cancer Awareness Month and this week we had the opportunity to have a Q&A with a few of our Hematology/Oncology nurses here at Reliant! Read along as Jennifer Leblanc and Alison Shelales answer some great questions about what it means to be a Hem/Onc nurse working with breast cancer patients.
- What do hematology/oncology nurses do?
Jennifer: A hem/onc nurse cares for patients who have blood disorders and cancer. As a nurse we look at the patient as a whole person rather just focusing on the disease alone. We take everything into consideration when developing a plan of care for our patients so we can see to it that they are able to access the care that they need. We are available for the patients to give direct care, to answer their questions and to provide emotional support.
Alison: Hem/Onc nurses give all cancer treatment injections, chemotherapy support drugs, and flush port-a-caths. We take triage phone calls and manage the labs of our hematology patients. Medication education. We are responsible for ordering and managing all oral chemotherapy medications, including prior authorizations.
- What questions do your breast cancer patients and their caregivers ask most often?
Jennifer: I find that a lot of the time breast cancer patients just want to know what their plan of care is so they know what they are facing. I try my best to really break things down for my patients so that I know they understand. It’s a very overwhelming time for them so simple directions can suddenly be easy to forget. I find when a patient really understands their treatment plan it helps to empower them. I also always recommend writing down questions for your doctor or nurse before your appointment and always bringing someone with you to be a second set of ears.
Alison: Patients are usually most concerned with the side effects of their medications. We do medication teaching and educate them on the side effects so they know what to look for.
- What do your patients appreciate most about you and the treatment center?
Jennifer: I think they appreciate that we are approachable. When you call in you don’t get a voicemail you speak with a person. We try and minimize our patient’s anxiety wherever possible. If you have lab results or have just had a scan before the weekend and you call on Friday we will do everything in our power to make it so you do not need to wait in suspense over the weekend for results. We are also very accommodating. When you are going through cancer treatment it is often not just chemo for example, you often need supportive medications so you are coming in for injections. We try to make these appointments as convenient for patients as possible.
Alison: Our patients love how closely we work together. They know that they have a cohesive team consisting of the MD, Nurse, Medical Assistants and PSS staff. We also have a great relationship with the chemo nurses and radiation oncology at St. Vincent.
- What do you like most about your job?
Jennifer: I love being able to help people. My patients are dealing with true hardship so if I can do something to make a difficult situation a little more doable it really makes my job worth it.
Alison: I love the connections that I am able to make with my patients. We see the same patients over and over so we are able to form strong relationships with them and their family members.
- What makes Reliant Medical Group’s Breast Cancer Center so special?
Jennifer: The caregivers. We are a very strong healthcare team and we truly care about our patients.
Alison: Our Breast Cancer Clinic is special because it involves every team needed to fight cancer. The Medical Oncologists, Surgeons, Radiation Oncologists, Pathology, Radiology, Nutrition, and Rehab all gather once a week to discuss current cases. They collaborate to develop individualized treatment plans for every breast patient.
- What advice would you give to newly diagnosed patients?
Jennifer: Don’t ever hesitate to rely on your healthcare team. If you have questions, call! There is no such thing as a stupid question and we would rather help talk you through something then have you worrying on your own. You are never alone on this journey.
Alison: Stay off the internet! Try to take it one day/one step at a time. It’s a lot of information to take in at once and easy to get overwhelmed, especially at the beginning phase. Write everything down and ask questions to your caregivers.