The Role of an Oncology Nurse Practitioner in Lung Cancer Treatment: Q&A with Rasheda Persinger Adams, NP-C
There are a number of doctors and other medical professionals who diagnose and treat people with lung cancer. Together, they make up the comprehensive medical or healthcare team that a patient sees over the course of his or her care. This multi-disciplinary team works together to describe your treatment options, the expected results of each option, and the possible side effects. Having a team of experts on your side can help you get the best treatment for your type of lung cancer and for any side effects resulting from the treatment. You and your healthcare team can work together to develop a treatment plan.
Many people may not realize the important role that oncology nurses and nurse practitioners play in lung cancer treatment. To learn more about that role, we talked to Rasheda Persinger Adams, NP-C, an oncology nurse practitioner at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC.
In your own words, can you please describe the role of the oncology nurse?
As an oncology nurse practitioner, my role differs from that of an oncology nurse. For me, I play an intricate role in assessing, diagnosing, developing plan of care, prescribing medications, and making decision on timing of restaging scans. I do this while in partnership with the oncologist.
What motivated you to become an oncology nurse?
I had a family member who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I also had the opportunity to work as a secretary to a group of oncologists at a local outpatient setting while in undergraduate school.
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
The ability not only to provide excellent care, attention to details, and a listening ear at a time when an individual is most vulnerable. Some of the ways these three concepts are met on a day to day basis are through appropriately diagnosing, addressing symptoms effectively, listening intensely to what is being said versus only the physical assessment, and understanding patients’ goals and personal milestones which often weigh higher than a certain treatment time point.
What are some of the challenges you face as an oncology nurse?
As an oncology nurse practitioner, as well as nurses, the ongoing challenge is creating balance and understanding that we are only human. Despite us wanting to do whatever is needed of us to ensure our patients are taken care of, we can easily deplete ourselves in the process. In doing periodical “self-checks” to ensure we are creating balance – vacation, exercising, mindfulness exercises – we in turn take care of ourselves which allows for us to continue to be excellent oncology nurse practitioner and nurses.
Do you have any tips to help patients and their caregivers better communicate with nurses?
I think a few ways to help are to write down your questions or concerns prior to arriving or talking with the nurse or nurse practitioner over the phone. Remember, be transparent. The only way I can truly provide you with adequate instructions is if I have all of the information. Which leads me to my next point, if ever you are not comfortable with expressing your concerns with the nurse or nurse practitioner please inquire of another nurse or nurse practitioner. It is important for patients and caregivers to understand you are your best advocate on this journey. Part of your best advocate is having an environment where you are able to express your concerns without judgment and receive the instructions provided by your healthcare team.
What type of patient education and support resources have been most useful to you in your role as an HCP?
For me, I lead the chemotherapy education visits for all new lung patients. For my literature review, I tend to use chemocare.com. At our facility, I am grateful we created our own chemotherapy education binder which includes review of the roles, when to call the triage nurse, correct phone numbers, contacts for support services along with our integrative medicine division. For non lung cancer patients, we also provide this information in a general chemotherapy class. Lastly, I have found providing these resources along with a calendar has improved patients understanding of the process.
What advice do you have for others who are thinking of entering the field of oncology nurse?
One must be caring, pay attention to detail and critical thinking, establish ways of dealing with personal stress and plans for relaxation, stay an engaged enthusiastic reader since the oncology world is ever changing, and stay humble.
What is one piece of advice you would give to someone newly diagnosed with lung cancer?
I don’t think I can summarize that in one piece of advice. I would say first take a deep breath and allow yourself to process the diagnosis in a timely manner. Then identify an oncologist who either specializes only in lung cancer or has a large population of lung cancer patients. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek second opinion if warranted. Once you meet with the oncologist ask about the lung cancer team – NP, nurse navigator, social worker, pain & palliative program, etc. – because in going through this journey you want an effective team.
Since May is also Lung Cancer Hope Month, what gives you hope for people living with lung cancer?
What gives me hope… is the continuously increase treatment options available now which were not available 15 years ago when I entered my career. What gives me hope… is knowing even within lung cancer we are providing precision medicine to ensure treatment is personalized not generalized through genomic profiling. What gives me hope… within lung cancer, especially in advanced stages, is seeing a patient on a routine basis for over a year and enjoying life. I am truly grateful and humble to be considered part of the team on this journey with patients.
Learn more about the different types of medical experts that make up your medical team in the Lung Cancer 101 section of LUNGevity’s website.