The following article is part of the Oncology Nurse Advisor 10-year anniversary celebration. Click here to read more articles celebrating the milestone.

Throughout 2020 Oncology Nurse Advisor will look back at the past decade and forward to the next one as part of our 10-year anniversary celebration. Beginning at the hub of oncology nursing, we asked Laura Fennimore, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, immediate past president of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), to share her perspective on how the oncology nursing field is evolving, what will influence oncology nursing practice most, and how a pandemic would affect cancer care.

In this interview, conducted before the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic and updated to reflect recent events, Dr Fennimore demonstrates the clinical foresight that is a benchmark of nursing.

Oncology Nurse Advisor (ONA): What do you believe has been the most significant change to oncology nursing practice in the past 10 years?

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Dr Fennimore: There have been many significant changes in cancer care and oncology nursing practice in the past 10 years. The number and variety of cancer treatments including immuno-oncology therapies have increased dramatically and are demonstrating real improvements in cancer survival. Many of these treatments are oral medications instead of traditional infusion therapies delivered in the clinic setting. Oral chemotherapy requires nurses to use different assessment and patient education skills to enhance delivery.

Some of these new therapies are extremely costly, however, and nurses have needed to learn about the implications of possible financial toxicities for the patient and family, as well as how to navigate insurance and patient support programs.

Cancer care has become increasingly complex with the integration of multiple oncology subspecialties requiring better care coordination between members of the interdisciplinary and intraprofessional teams.

Finally, there is better recognition of the value of early palliative care for anyone diagnosed with a serious illness, such as some types of cancer.

ONA: Outbreaks of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19) were classified as a pandemic on March 11, 2020, creating unprecedented worldwide health issues. How do epidemics and pandemics affect managing the care of cancer patients?

Dr Fennimore: It is difficult right now to avoid conversations about this global crisis that has already shaken nearly every aspect of our lives. There is a tremendous need for accurate information that helps people to remain calm and use appropriate prevention strategies to minimize the risk of possible transmission.

The inappropriate use of masks and other personal protective equipment by non-health care providers has already had a very real impact on the availability of this equipment needed to deliver safe care to patients receiving cytotoxic therapy. Access to cancer treatment has already been disrupted leading to significant anxiety.