Nurses Share Their Strategies, Patient Concerns Regarding COVID-19

“We must protect them” one nurse said about oncology patients in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oncology nurses and their institutions are taking extra measures to protect themselves and the patients that they are treating in the COVID-19 outbreak. Oncology Nursing News polled its audience and kept abreast of the buzz on social media about the response to the worldwide pandemic.

“There is indeed more panic given the influx of patients being ruled out for this virus, however, the organizational priority of a strategic plan has been superb,” said Stephanie Jackson, MSN, RN, AOCNS, BMTCN, oncology clinical nurse specialist, Hematology/Stem Cell Transplantation

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.

Jackson is also a co-editor in chief of Oncology Nursing News.

On Twitter, oncology nurse Kristin Ferguson, DNP, RN, OCN, clinical operations manager at the Lombardi Cancer Center said, “Oncology nurses will be critical in the next weeks and months in educating and triaging immunocompromised patients who are now not only worried about their cancer, but also their risk of contracting #COVIDー19. Unfortunately cancer won’t take a break.”*

On Institutions’ Response to COVID-19

Hospitals and clinics alike continue to take extra steps to protect all who enter.

Trudy McDonald RN, OCN, said, “Company-wide policy and procedures [are] updated regularly on processes to handle patients from check in forward. Emails are disseminated to entire staff. Screening form at check in. No visitors allowed inside the clinic. Patients only. Magazines and snacks have been taken away. We have started moving non-urgent and 6-month follow up patients out to May 2020 to decrease foot traffic in the clinic. Wiping down all common surfaces daily including our chemo pumps and chairs.”

Another nurse, who works at an outpatient physician office and chose to remain anonymous, said that their institution is:

  • Stocking supplies to the maximum limit
  • Limiting patient visitors
  • Asking patients to call ahead before coming into the office with fever/cough/or potential COVID-19 exposure
  • Referring patients to their primary care physicians with their questions regarding testing
  • Using masks and “rooming” patients with a fever/cough

At UCLA, Jackson said, “All patients are being screened prior to the outpatient appointments when they receive a call reminding them of their appointment. They are also being screened by the receptionist when they arrive to their appointment. If they are deemed a risk, they are immediately quarantined, examined by a provider, and screened if deemed appropriate.”

Jackson also said that every healthcare worker has been educated to wear a surgical mask, isolation gown, and gloves, as well as how to appropriately put on and take off their personal protective equipment (PPE) to prevent potential virus spread.

“As of Tuesday, no visitors are allowed in the hospital with their love ones unless it is end of life, development disabilities, a patient being discharged, trauma, pediatric patient or durable power of attorney. If they do fit this requirement, there is only 1 visitor allowed to visit. They are only allowed for short time periods and not allowed to spend the night,” Jackson said. “They are also being told not to go in and out of the hospital to risk exposure.”

Jackson also explained extra hospital security, and a change in the cafeteria (limited hot meals and more) to prevent further spread.

“All management are meeting each day to discuss the availability of supplies and ensure the strategic plan is being executed appropriately,” she said.

Patient Questions and Concerns

Patients and caregivers are also nervous about the virus — especially since many cancer treatments can lead to patients being immunocompromised.

The nurse who works at an outpatient physician office said that patients expressed concerns about getting coronavirus, as well their ability to recover if they do contract it. “Patients have been asking for masks without [having any] symptoms,” the nurse wrote.

McDonald also said that her patients had similar concerns.

In addition to asking about masks, she said that her patients have also been asking about other precautions to take, travel, and canceling their appointments.

“Most patients [may be] susceptible to it due to their lack of immunity,” McDonald said. “We must protect them.”

*tweet shared with permission of the author

Read more on the Coronavirus (COVID-19):

  • CDC Discusses COVID-19: Updates for Providers, Vaccine, and More
  • NCCN Offers Guidance for Cancer Centers Amid COVID-19 Pandemic
  • COVID-19 and Beyond: Oncology Nursing in Uncertain Times
  • Coronavirus: How Are You Responding?
  • Expert Addresses Coronavirus and Cancer Innovation
  • Amid Coronavirus Outbreak, Industrial-Grade Respirators Become Available to Healthcare Workers