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Supporting health professionals

Kara HenmanWhen Charlene Porter and her clinical team at the Guysborough Antigonish Strait Health Authority (GASHA) have a question about cancer care, they know the answer is only a phone call away. Ready to lend a helping hand are Cancer Care Nova Scotia’s two Oncology Practice Consultants.

“The Oncology Practice Consultants (OPC) are a great educational resource,” said Charlene, District Manager of Cancer and Supportive Care, GASHA. “They are an important liaison with the cancer centres and very supportive of the chemotherapy nurses and the cancer team in the district. The OPCs support the nurses in fine-tuning their skills and enhanceing patient care.”

Kara Henman and Michele Rogez, CCNS’s Oncology Practice Consultants, bring much experience and expertise to their jobs. Their role is to ensure safe, quality care, treatment and improved outcomes for people with cancer by providing education, practical experience and practice support to the health professionals who care for them. Both are experienced Registered Nurses with advanced oncology education.

“Our mandate is to make sure health professionals have the ‘just-in-time’ knowledge to provide consistent care across the province. This benefits everyone,” explains Kara.

Providing “just-in-time” phone, virtual and onsite professional support is one important way Kara and Michele support district health professionals. This may include offering education on new drug treatments, responding to questions about administration of chemotherapy or sharing information about safe handling practices.

“When pharmacists, Registered Nurses, physicians and other health professionals have a question about cancer care that requires an answer now, Kara and Michele respond,” said Meg McCallum, CCNS’s Provincial Manager, Education and Patient Navigation.

Recently, Kara received a call from a district health authority inquiring about the administration of a cancer drug called Temsirolimus. The patient’s oncologist who works in Halifax indicated the patient could receive the drug in their home hospital, but the hospital team had never administered this particular drug before.

“The staff requested information about Temsirolimus,” said Kara. “I met with them and reviewed material regarding the drug’s indications and interactions as well as possible reactions, side effects, and monitoring necessary.”

Kara then reviewed the patient education material with the team and arranged for a physician to be present during the first time the drug was administered.

“This support provided the team with the confidence they needed and the drug was given without any problems,” said Kara.

In addition to providing ‘just-in-time’ support, the Oncology Practice Consultants work with district health authorities to implement provincial policies and procedures, including patient education standards as well as to provide expert support to chemotherapy nurses at satellite clinics and other hospitals where chemotherapy is delivered.

“One day I could be working on revising a policy and could get a call from a district inquiring about a chemo drug that is going to be used later in the week,” said Kara. “The next day I could be traveling to a district to offer a training session on a new procedure. Every day is different.”

The work is appreciated. A recent survey conducted by CCNS found that there is strong agreement that the role of the Oncology Practice Consultant is very beneficial. “Respondents noted that the OPC helped them provide safe, quality care closer to home,” said Meg.

“We didn’t always know who to turn to but now we do,” said Charlene. “The Oncology Practice Consultants are an amazing resource. They are a one-stop shop. Even if the information isn’t readily available, Kara and Michelle know who to call to get it.”

“The success of the Oncology Practice Consultant role has been very significant,” said Meg. “Although nurses have been the highest users of the OPCs to date, other health professionals on the cancer team are now requesting this support.”