ecancermedicalscience

Special Issue

Oncology nursing in the Global South during COVID-19

9 Dec 2021
Julia Challinor, Maria Fernanda Olarte Sierra, Kathryn Burns, Annie Young

In mid-2020, a call was made to oncology nurses in the Global South to share their experiences managing patient care during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Eighteen submissions were received from 16 countries across Latin America, Africa, Europe and Asia. Three were research-based and 15 were personal narratives on the psychosocial impact of COVID-19 on the nurses, colleagues, patients and families. Three narratives were from oncology nurses working with cancer-related non-governmental organisations locally or, in one case, internationally. A simultaneous literature search for publications (including grey literature) was performed to identify themes of COVID-19’s impact in these 16 countries and specifically on oncology nurses and patients/families. Four themes were identified: a) interruptions to care; b) support/resource shortages; c) psychosocial impact on nurses and patients and d) staffing and nursing role impacts. The three research-based studies describe oncology nursing in-depth efforts to explore the impact of COVID-19. Findings in the 15 narratives are briefly presented according to the four themes identified in the literature. Due to the severe shortage of physician adult and paediatric oncology specialists, oncology nurses in the Global South often shoulder much of the care for patients with cancer and even more so during COVID-19 with attendant oncology nursing shortages due to reassignment to COVID-19 units. It is important to hear from these critical members of the oncology nursing workforce who often lack the time, resources or training to publish in peer-reviewed journals in English, particularly in the middle of a pandemic. Giving voice to these nurses documents the reality of their work and ability to continue to provide care despite the chaos and rapidly changing guidelines and government action. Lessons learned by these nurses to improve mental health and psychosocial support of the nurses as well as their patients/families will be essential for the next global pandemic.

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