Sometimes, there's only so much you can do for patients in a clinical setting. But by sharing their stories and struggles, you can drive change that will affect their clinical treatment.
Throughout my career, I’ve focused on providing personalized, quality care to my patients. Little did I know that my perspective—and career—would change dramatically after a familiar face walked into my clinic.
When my mother was first diagnosed with cancer, I wasn’t an advocate or navigator. I hadn’t had any experience advocating on behalf of patients until the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) extended the invite to their annual conference. I wanted to get involved—for my mom, for my patients, for my practice.
I attended my first advocacy day on Capitol Hill shortly after the conference. At first, I didn’t know what to expect or how to present myself when meeting face-to-face with representatives and staffers; I wasn’t even sure I knew what to say. COA was there to guide me through the process and encouraged me to think beyond my perspective as just a nurse. Their educational resources and training webinars taught me about policies that restrict the care we try to provide.
I began to understand how insurers and pharmacy benefit managers harm patients by delaying access to treatment. The more I educated myself, the more I understood that it takes real people—myself, my mother and others—to give human perspectives that ultimately change people’s minds about potentially harmful policies.
I advocate for community oncology so that people in my community, like my mother, can receive the affordable, life-saving treatments they need close to home. Together on Capitol Hill, my mother and I talked about the value of community oncology and what it meant to her and our family. Our representatives and their staffers truly appreciated the time we spent sharing our experiences. If there’s one thing you should expect out of advocacy, it’s to know that you drive change by telling your own story.
It was great for me to learn that you don’t have to choose your career over advocacy. I am still able to do what I’m passionate about and care for the people at our clinic. Making time to speak with the community and educating others about the important issues we face in the clinic and cancer care community at large; makes the care I provide even more rewarding.
Stephanie Jackson, RN, is an Oncology Nurse Manager at the Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois. She hopes to inspire others in her community to advocate for more accessible cancer care.