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Pain Treatment at Fox Chase Cancer Center Score High on National Test: Nurses Seen as Educators and Advocates for a Change

ANAHEIM, CALIFORNIA -- For many oncology patients pain disrupts their physical and emotional well-being. However, a recent Press Ganey patient satisfaction survey conducted at Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, Pa., reported that patients do not rate pain as a concern; due to the expert treatment they already receive. Patients rated their satisfaction with current pain relief treatment within 99 percent. Kathleen MacDonald, RN, BSN, OCN, contributes such high scores to the role of the pain resource nurse (PRN) and shares her expertise at the 29th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress.

"Pain resource nurses at Fox Chase are regarded as advocates and educators to patients, family members and physicians," said MacDonald. "Teaming up with the Press Ganey Associates, an independent and national leader in measuring patient satisfaction for the health-care industry, gives us patient-driven tools to guide us on how to best use our resources and where to concentrate our efforts."

According to MacDonald, PRNs possess extensive knowledge in pain and symptom management, which provide a better quality of life for patients. "Pain Resource Nurses provide patients and their families with a dedicated individual that is available to them 24 hours a day, seven days a week," said MacDonald. "To the patient this means comfort and allows them to get back to their normal self quicker."

The role of the Pain Resource Nurse is two fold. Acting primarily as an educator, the PRN provides effective pain and symptom management strategies and information not only to patients but their fellow oncology nurses. The PRN is a unit-based contact for other nurses and physicians. The PRN will spend one-on-one time with the patients to understand their history and current symptoms, making them aware and most familiar with what treatment is best for their pain.

The PRN works closely with the physician to make sure the appropriate pain medication is given. Serving secondly as an advocate for patients, the PRN can discuss with the doctor if palliative care should be given, make recommendations and provide updates on how a patient is responding to the medication. The PRN often serves as the voice of the patients.

"The Pain Management Center at Fox Chase is made up of pain experts who work together on complex cases and discuss the latest pain-related information," explains MacDonald. "Being a part of this team rewards Pain Resource Nurses like myself with the confidence I need to feel comfortable and secure when influencing policies and participating in medication revisions."

MacDonald recommends holding quarterly meetings to discuss the most up-to-date pain management information, as done at Fox Chase. She also suggests placing informational cards on patients' breakfast trays to further educate them. Creative strategies for educating fellow nurses include word games and eye-catching informational posters.

"Through the implementation of more Pain Resource Nurse programs such as the one at Fox Chase, we can have numbers like this nationwide while improving the patient's quality of life," concluded MacDonald.

MacDonald is among the staff of Fox Chase nurses, who in 2000, were recognized for excellence with the Magnet Award. At Fox Chase, nurses not only specialize in oncology, but further concentrate within a particular field allowing them to provide the most up-to-date treatment.

Fox Chase Cancer Center, part of the Temple University Health System, is one of the leading cancer research and treatment centers in the United States. Founded in 1904 in Philadelphia as one of the nation’s first cancer hospitals, Fox Chase was also among the first institutions to be designated a National Cancer Institute Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1974. Fox Chase researchers have won the highest awards in their fields, including two Nobel Prizes. Fox Chase physicians are also routinely recognized in national rankings, and the Center’s nursing program has received the Magnet recognition for excellence four consecutive times. Today, Fox Chase conducts a broad array of nationally competitive basic, translational, and clinical research, with special programs in cancer prevention, detection, survivorship, and community outreach.  For more information, call 1-888-FOX CHASE or (1-888-369-2427).

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