Is Your Oncology Patient-Care Team Complete?

Is Your Oncology Patient-Care Team Complete?

Every cancer patient deserves the best care possible. There isn’t a provider on the planet who disagrees with that. For many cancer centers and health systems, the best means putting together an all-star team capable of meeting the full needs of the patient, including “financial, psychological, social, logistical or related to communication.” That is why no oncology team is complete without an Oncology Nurse Navigator.

An Oncology Nurse Navigator is a clinically trained individual (typically a professional RN with oncology-specific clinical knowledge) who offers individualized assistance to patients and caregivers to help address barriers to timely and appropriate cancer treatment. They advocate for their patients throughout the cancer care continuum from diagnosis through survivorship and coordinate all components involved in cancer care, including surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists; social workers; patient education; community support; financial and insurance assistance; etc. They perform a vital role on the patient’s cancer care team.

Bringing on an Oncology Nurse Navigator is the first step. Equipping them with the best tools available is the second. That is why so many providers turn to Bag It Cancer. Oncology Nurse Navigators can assist patients with various issues beyond healthcare; comprehensive patient education tools like Bag It matter a lot in these situations. By providing a Bag It Bag, an Oncology Nurse Navigator can also help a patient learn to advocate for themselves and introduce them to reliable information that can often be difficult to find.

Mary Verplank photo Nurse Navigator, Retired

”When meeting patients for the first time, we often find the devastation of the new Cancer diagnosis to be overwhelming.  They are not sure who to turn to, or where to begin.  As certified Nurse Navigators, our first meeting is a cornerstone for care needs and coordination.

Having the Bag It Bag helps to introduce our ability to support and stabilize the care they need.  At the same time, we use it to education them in essential ways.  Lastly, it is a place to keep things from getting misplaced, and helps keep the Cancer ‘in its place’ in their lives from the start.”

Anyone that has ever met with an Oncology Nurse Navigator knows that support like patient education matters a lot and can be the difference between a good and bad experience for patients and caregivers.

So, if you don’t already have an Oncology Nurse Navigator on your team, or are interested in becoming a certified navigator, reach out to our friends at the Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN).

If your practice needs to upgrade your patient education materials to match your new all-star team, please reach out at cj@bagitcancer.org and learn how Bag It can enhance your practice.

 

 

 

6 Ways to Mind Your Mind During Cancer

6 Ways to Mind Your Mind During Cancer

We all know that a cancer diagnosis can be life-changing for everyone. Its impact isn’t just reserved to the physical changes experienced by patients, but also the mental health toll it can have on patients, families, friends, and entire communities. In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Month, our team at Bag It would like to share some helpful tips for you and your loved ones to ease your journey to survivorship. 

Number one

Change your environment (even for a short while)

Take a vacation with a loved one. Vacations offer many mental health benefits, including reducing depression and anxiety. Your vacation doesn’t need to be extensive; even a weekend road trip can help reduce stress. A study found that “a short, three-day leisure trip reduced perceived levels of stress and reduced levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol.” Another option is to take some time to enjoy nature. A 15-30 minute walk outside offers a chance to get some fresh air and reset. Maybe a stroll at the park or a hike on a trail might do the trick.

Number 2

Take advantage of support programs in your community

Support groups are a safe, confidential space to share experiences and connect with others navigating similar challenges. They are often available in person or virtual, and you may find one at a local religious group, cancer center, or local cancer nonprofit. Studies have shown that attending a support group can lead to a better quality of life due to improved mood, self-image, and increased coping ability. 

Number 3

Take some time to count sheep

Sleep plays a vital role in how our bodies recover. A lack of adequate sleep has previously been thought to result from depression, but “growing evidence suggests that poor sleep may induce or exacerbate depression.” Inadequate sleep can also lead to anxiety disorders and may become an added source of worry and hyperarousal, which is a key contributor to insomnia. So find a bedtime each day that works for you. Wind down with some relaxation techniques as part of your bedtime routine and maximize comfort with a great mattress, pillow, and bedding. Your body will thank you for it.

Number 4

Let’s get physical

Exercise offers so many benefits beyond just building muscle and burning calories. Moderate exercise “relieves stress, improves memory, helps you sleep better, and boosts your overall mood.” No matter your age or fitness level, 30-minutes of moderate exercise five times a week can make a lot of difference. You`ll feel more relaxed and see a change in your self-image. Physical activity is also essential for managing some of the side effects of cancer, including fatigue, weight loss, weight gain, and cardiovascular issues. It also plays a role in survivorship by reducing inflammation and joint pain.  

Additional information can be found in the booklet Living Well with Cancer and Beyond.  So find a fun activity that works for you, and get started today!

Number 5

Form your squad

People face so many challenges daily, and these challenges get even more complex after a cancer diagnosis. It’s natural for people to retreat alone and deal in silence, but it’s not always the healthiest route. Find family members or close friends you trust as members of your support network. Social interactions are good for our overall physical and mental health. Cancer doesn’t have to be the focus of every conversation, and you have the right to determine what you feel comfortable sharing with others. A laugh with friends or dinner at your favorite restaurant can also offer a greater sense of well-being and relieves pent-up stress or pain.

Number 6

Talk to your provider

It’s ok not to be ok. You are not alone. If the challenges around you become overwhelming or you find yourself in a dark place, never be ashamed to seek help. Talk to your provider or find a licensed mental health professional near you. If you have insurance, you can often find a provider in your network by visiting your insurance plan’s website. You can also visit the Bag It Resource Center to find reliable resources.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. They are available 24 hours a day, everyday, Call: 1-800-273-8255 or Text: “HELLO” to 741741

Sources

Lifeskills Behavioral Health. 2022. Social Connection & Healthy Activities | Mental Health Well-Being. [online]  [Accessed 6 May 2022]

Four reasons to take a vacation. [online]  [Accessed 6 May 2022]

Unity Point Health. 2022. 5 Powerful Benefits of Joining a Cancer Support Group (Infographic). [online]  [Accessed 6 May 2022]

Suni, E., 2022. Mental Health and Sleep | Sleep Foundation. [online]  [Accessed 6 May 2022]

Effects of Racial Discriminations on Health Outcomes

Effects of Racial Discriminations on Health Outcomes

Dr. Rogers Wilson photo

On this episode of Your Guide Through Cancer podcast, host and Bag It Executive Director, Mindy Griffith speaks with Dr. Rodgers Wilson, a forensic psychiatrist by training with an interest in transcultural psychology. They explore the effects of racial discriminations on health outcomes as well as the importance of early detection in cancer, sharing your personal history with your healthcare team and having the tools to move forward after a cancer diagnosis is critical to living your best life.

With over 30 years of clinical leadership experience, Dr. Wilson has worked with capitated provider organizations to improve population health management and instituted population health management strategies for health plans to impact the clinical care for high-risk clinical populations.

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Ingrid Jacobs’ Journey With The Bag It Bag

Ingrid Jacobs’ Journey With The Bag It Bag

By Ingrid Jacobs

In February 2010, I picked up my Bag It bag at the Resource Center. I was still in shock with my colon cancer diagnosis and was a little dismissive of this bag and its contents.

When I had some quiet time, I looked through it and sorted out those things that directly affected me. By this time I had accumulated a number of providers’ business cards and other information pamphlets that I had in a pile. I also had copies from various doctors of my personal information. This unorganized collection prompted me to look at the binder more closely. Maybe it had something to offer.

The first thing I noticed in the binder was the clear plastic 10 pocket sheet that is intended for business cards. Yeah, I had plenty of those to fill the front and back of almost every pocket. That stayed right up front in my version of the binder. I often wished that I had a couple of those.

There was the encouraging letter from Sherri Romanoski, the founder of Bag It who had had cancer several years earlier. I think that I appreciate her desire to help more now then when I read her letter back in 2010. There were so many things going through my head at the time of my diagnosis and treatment. There were days I felt crappy. There were days I felt pretty good. I was scared and confused, but through it all, I had an extremely strong determination that kept me focused on what I needed to do. I also had the unwavering support of my daughter, her boyfriend, my 2 cats and a dog, a few cousins, and quite a few friends.

The various tabs in the binder caught my attention: Personal Information, Notes/Log/Calendar, Reports/Scans, Labs, and After Treatment. I had something for just about every tab. Hmmmm. . . not half bad. Somebody had put some real thought into this goody binder. I soon found myself putting papers behind the corresponding tabs. Then, I started to personalize it to fit my needs. I created my own tabs. Now I have my dated Chemo Logs and my Post-Chemo Logs. In between my chemo sessions I kept a log of what I was noticing, what I was doing to help myself, and questions I wanted to ask. Every two weeks, I took a copy of this log to my doctor to put into my file. She said that it was very helpful for her to read about these things because it actually helped her with my treatment plan.

Eventually, my original binder was bursting at the seams. I bought a second binder and created my own matching covers for both binders. I labeled them Arizona Oncology Logs and Labs #1 and #2. I know . . . clever and original. (giggle)

From my doctor, I learned that diet (including vitamins and supplements) was very important for more positive treatment results. I created a 3rd binder with corresponding information.  That’s a whole other part of the continuing saga of me taking better charge of my health.

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