Palliative care is often associated with a patient entering end of life treatment and giving up on their treatment, but that isn't the reality of what id can do for patients. And oncology nurses can help guide patients to the right supportive care for them.
For many physicians, palliative care is often associated with end of life care. This is why many physicians are wary to refer their patients undergoing treatment to doctors in supportive care, but this is far from the reality of what supportive care does in oncology, according to Diana Martins-Welch, MD.
Martins-Welch, a palliative care physician with Northwell Health in New York City, New York, had the chance to address this stigma at CURE®’s patient-focused sessions, held in tandem with the 14th Annual PER® New York Lung Cancers Symposium, in a presentation on supportive care and it’s benefits to the quality of life for patients with cancer.
Oncology Nursing News® had the chance to sit down with Martins-Welch and not only discuss supportive care’s vital role in oncology, but how the oncology nurse is crucial to patients getting the right supportive care as nurses are often the ones to refer patients to a palliative care physician before the oncologist.
Oncology nurses are the ones who are usually spearheading the palliative care referral. If we wait for the physicians to come up with it for themselves, we'll be waiting a long time. I was just talking to an oncology nurse yesterday who told me when she used to work on the hematology floor with a lot of bone marrow transplant patients, leukemia patients, and lymphoma patients, she was often the one calling the palliative care referral. Whether or not the hematologist on service wanted one because I can tell you that's been a very contentious field in hematology.
I wasn't at all surprised to hear her tell me this, because oncology nurses service such advocates and they know the patients on a more intimate level, I'd like to say, than the oncologist. Nurses tend to spend more time with patients, patients who are coming in for chemotherapy treatments, they'll usually see them and take care of them for hours on end on a weekly basis and a bi-weekly basis.
So, there's a closer bond that's formed, and usually, they're able to see a lot of the side effects that patients are getting from the chemotherapy that might not come out in the short visit that the oncologist is having with the patient. When they're seeing all these things, and that how much patients may be suffering from treatments and not necessarily disclosing to their doctor, I feel like they're a perfect avenue for including palliative care into the care team. It's a really common aspect of how we are included in the care, it's through the nurse.