European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS) Spring Convention March 2008

15 May 2008

New ways of working:  Innovation in cancer nursing practice

Change is happening rapidly in cancer care.  But with so many changes bombarding the daily practice of the cancer nurse it is often difficult to reframe a situation and move toward keeping pace with change by implementing new trends that really make a difference in patient care. The fresh crisp early spring weather which greeted participants to the 6th EONS Spring Convention held in Geneva in late March provided just the right back for talking about innovation in cancer nursing practice.

The topics presented at the EONS Convention ranged from new ways of working in the changing setting of oncology to developing practice based evidence for cancer nursing to supporting carers and patients to understanding how researchers can develop nursing sensitive outcomes. 

One trend in health care that almost everyone is experiencing is the increased involvement of patients and their families in decision-making as well as in the provision of care. What is innovative is that patients are also becoming more involved in policy making.  G. Hubbard conducted a literature review on the involvement of cancer patients in health care research policy.  While patients are becoming savier in negotiating bureaucratic hurdles this researcher found that they require training and mentoring to be successful in influencing policy makers.

Cancer nurses are well-aware of the importance of providing information to patients and their families.  However as nurses in Rome found out communicating with elderly cancer patients presents new challenges and nurses must adapt their methods of communication to meet the needs of this fast-growing subpopulation of cancer patients.  Nurses in Zurich developed a patient education program for patients with head and neck cancer.  They found that patient competence and confidence in self-management was improved through structured teaching activities.

It is widely recognized that specialist nurses can improve the quality of care.  In Bern Switzerland specialized breast cancer nurses implemented a project to provide patients with consultation and support during the treatment process.  The results of their study which evaluated needs as expressed by a control group of patients who received standard care and an intervention group who were continuously consulted and supported by specialist nurses showed quite interestingly that the intervention group had an increase in unmet needs over the control group.  The results suggest that the provision of more specialized care may increase patient awareness of their needs and may encourage patients to more openly voice their needs.

The innovative use of technology was discussed by several presenters as a means of changing practice.  The Canadian researcher D. Doran found that nurses could improve the quality of the care they provided by using benchmarking methods to compare individual patient outcomes to outcomes provided in databases.  Using mobile phone and computer technology coupled with a multidisciplinary team including engineers and IT specialists A. Young from the UK found that nurses could be alerted to changes in the condition of patients who were at home and the technology provided an increased sense of security and self-management for patients.

A record 600 participants from 34 different countries attended the EONS 6th Spring Convention demonstrating that nurses have recognised the trend to use scientific meetings to find out more about “what works when” and introduce innovation in their practice.