Cancer Patients and COVID-19

April 2020 Vol 11, No 4
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Editor-in-Chief, JONS; Co-Founder, AONN+; University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer, Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Co-Developer, Work Stride-Managing Cancer at Work, Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions

Dear Navigators, Social Workers, Administrators, and Clinical Staff,

At the time I am writing this, we are in an unprecedented situation with COVID-19 declared a global pandemic. As healthcare professionals, we have an obligation to help our patients understand the risks and the ways in which they can avoid contracting COVID-19.

Patients should understand that they are immunosuppressed, which makes them vulnerable to any illness. Patients should also understand that their risk for contracting a virus is not limited to the time when they are in active treatment (surgery, radiation, or any therapy such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy); the effects of treatment can last for months.

Increased risk means increased vigilance. Patients and their caregivers should maintain social distancing practices as well as heightened hygiene practices. No handshaking, hugging, or close proximity to others. Frequent and thorough handwashing is a necessity.

What about traveling to appointments? Patients should keep their appointments unless they have flu-like symptoms. Patients who use public transportation to get to their appointments should talk with their navigator about other possible options. Wearing a hospital-grade mask and gloves may help reduce the risk of infections if going out in public is unavoidable.

If your patient begins to experience flu-like symptoms, they should contact you immediately to decide the best course of action.

As healthcare providers, let’s remain a constant source of strength and support for our patients. We will support them through this pandemic with the goal of keeping them virus free.

Finally, I’d like to share with you the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) COVID-19 position statement:

“In light of the COVID-19, novel coronavirus, AONN+ is aware of the increased acuity of care the navigators are dealing with on a daily basis with patients and families. In response, we desire to support our professional members with credible resources/information they can use to educate and empower those around them as well as alleviate fears. The navigator’s primary responsibility to the patient is to follow the mandatory guidelines set by their federal, state, and/or their healthcare institution.

Patient empowerment is a key competency skill for all navigators and is reflected in the AONN+ knowledge domains as well as the National Navigation Roundtable competency domains. As discussions are held with patients, their families, and other community members, it is critical to apply insight and understanding about emotions and human responses to emotions to create and maintain positive interpersonal interactions. Please demonstrate interpersonal and communication skills that result in the effective exchange of information and collaboration across the broad range of socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds encountered daily.”

Sincerely,

Lillie Digital Signature

Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, HON-ONN-CG
Editor-in-Chief, JONS

University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer; Professor of Surgery, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine; Co-Developer of Work Stride: Managing Cancer at Work, Johns Hopkins Healthcare Solutions; Co-Founder of AONN+.
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Last modified: February 17, 2021

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