Advanced practice nurses are registered nurses with advanced education and skills knowledge, usually at the master’s degree level. (Yarbo, Goodman & Frogge, 2005, 1761). Advanced practice nurses play a critical role in the field of oncology and take on leadership roles in order to provide high levels of care for oncology patients and their families. There are constant discoveries being made regarding oncology and the treatment of cancer and advanced practice nurses are needed to apply these new discoveries to current methods of cancer treatment.
Advanced practice nurses also play a critical role in research and education in order to maximize the outcomes of cancer patients. A discussion of how Oncology Advanced Practice Nurses contribute to and enhance patient outcomes is offered including two evidence based areas that were improved due to the interventions of the advanced practice nurse. These findings are used to discuss the challenges of the advanced practice nurse as well as how they can be applied to the prospective advanced practice role.
Finally, model of care is discussed. Role of the APN in Improving Patient Outcomes The level of care that oncology patients receive from advanced practice nurses has increased in the past few years. Prior to these changes advanced practice nurses focused on traditional nursing duties. However, this job description has shifted to include advanced practice nurses in all aspects of cancer care and health policy reform (Yarbro, et al, 2005, 1767).
Further, advanced practice nurses are also beginning to focus on one specific aspect of oncology patient care which helps improve the level of care that a patient receives. For example, an advanced practice nurse can focus on prevention and early detection, genetic predisposition to cancer or symptom management (Yarbro, et al, 2005, 1767; Hamric, Spross & Hanson, 2004, 535). Additionally, the advanced practice nurse can choose to focus on a specific malignancy such as breast of lung cancer (Yarbro, et al, 2005, 1767; Hamric, et al, 2004, 535).
This expansion of the traditional boundaries that use to guide advanced practice nurses has allowed these critical caregivers to preserve the essence of nursing while also improving the level of patient care. These improvements have become possible through the ability of advanced practice nurses to go beyond typical nursing duties to include physical examination, interpretation of diagnostic results and prescribing medication (Yarbro, et al, 2005, 1767).
As a result, cancer patients form a relationship with their advanced practice nurse that improves the chances of successful treatment and intervention. Advanced practice nurses take on a critical primary care role that improves the overall health of their oncology patients. This allows higher levels of treatment for outpatient oncology patients as they return for follow up care (Hamric, et al, 2004, 536). In this way the “whole person” is addressed rather than just the oncology patient.
For example, an advanced care nurse treating a woman for breast cancer may realize that the patient has not received a recommended colonoscopy and write a referral for that test (Hamric, et al, 2004, 536). While the oncology advanced practice nurses focus primarily on the cancer symptoms and treatments of patients, they are also in a unique position to address the health needs of the entire patient which improves the overall health outlook for each patient (Hamric, et al, 2004, 536).
This has the power to enhance patient care so oncology patients do not overlook other health concerns while focusing solely on their cancer diagnosis and treatment. Further, this level of personalized care ensures that cancer patients receive the very best outcomes from treatment because the advanced practice nurse has an in depth picture of their overall health. In order to continue to offer high levels of care for cancer patients, advanced practice nurses must receive high quality medical education in order to effectively act in this role.
Therefore, the role of the advanced practice nurse has shifted to include teaching, research, program development and staff education (Kleinpell, 2005, 212). When current advanced practice nurses are involved in educating prospective advanced practice nurses the level of care that is possible increases. Learning important diagnostic and treatment interventions from practicing nurses results in more educated and experienced prospective nurses because they are learning from the very people conducting the research and providing the care.
This enhances patient care and improves outcomes because incoming advanced practice nurses are already prepared and knowledgeable enough to work with oncology patients. Further, this type of education has allowed advanced care nurses to broaden their scope of practice in order to provide better treatment to oncology patients (Kleinpell, 2005, 214). This type of focus on one specific area of diagnosis and treatment results in highly qualified expert advanced practice nurses that directly improve the outcome for oncology patients (Kleinpell, 2005, 214).