The International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC) has put forward a position statement “to advocate for COVID-19 prevention and control strategies for cancer patients, their families/non-family caregivers, and nurses caring for them” that is available on the ISNCC website.
Both nurses and patients with cancer represent groups who are potentially at high risk of COVID-19. In the former case, the close contact between nurses and the patients they care for can increase risk for exposure to the virus, whereas patients with cancer may be immunosuppressed due to the disease and/or its treatment and thus more vulnerable to infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
As a means of decreasing the coronavirus infection risk, the ISNCC position statement included recommendations directed to patients with cancer to maintain a healthy lifestyle, practice social distancing, pay careful attention to hand hygiene, and develop an awareness of the symptoms of COVID-19. In addition, patients were encouraged to keep in regular contact with their health care team, either online or by telephone, if possible, and to verify any health care appointments so as to limit unnecessary travel and exposure.
Regarding nurses, recommendations from ISNCC included having ready access to, and training in, the proper use of personal protective equipment (PPE) to limit their exposure. Also emphasized was the need for nurses to become familiar with approaches to prevent and/or reduce possible self-injury from the use of PPE. With respect to patient care, the importance of screening all patients, regarding both travel history and symptoms of COVID-19 infection, before they enter a health care facility, and of following established procedures in the case of suspected infection, was stressed.
Another theme for both patients with cancer and nurses was the importance of implementing strategies to facilitate individual psychological health during the COVID-19 crisis period, such as paying attention to self-care and seeking support services, if needed. In addition, a related nurse-specific recommendation emphasized the importance of regularly monitoring the psychological status of their patients with cancer who, along with their family members, may experience increased stress during and after the COVID-19 pandemic, and of facilitating timely interventions, when necessary.
Overall, the ISNCC position statement stressed the importance of recognizing the pivotal role played by nurses in providing evidence-based care at the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the critical need to engage sufficient numbers of trained nurses and provide them with essential resources to protect themselves and their patients during this crisis. Finally, the need for inclusion of the perspectives and experiences of nurses in the development of health care policies and programs relating to COVID-19 was a key element of the ISNCC position statement.
International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC). COVID-19 position statement. ISNCC. Approved April 2, 2020. Accessed May 1, 2020.
This article originally appeared on Oncology Nurse Advisor