What Does a Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner Do?
Nurse practitioners have the best of both worlds; they approach patient care with a patient-centered and holistic view and yet work as a provider. As with other areas of nursing, nurse practitioners can choose to specialize in a specific population, such as pediatrics. NPs can even further subspecialize into different areas, one if which is pediatric oncology - the specialty and care of children with cancer.
So, what does a pediatric oncology NP do? The following gives a brief description of some of the tasks oncology nurse practitioners routinely perform as well as other aspects of their job.
Pediatric NPs can work both in the clinic and hospital setting. In the clinic, they meet with patients and families and perform physical exams, order, and review test results, and develop a care plan for patients. This can include indications for chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. In the hospital, pediatric NPs oversee pediatric patients' treatment and recovery from surgery, help them manage the side effects of treatment, and ensure children meet post-op expectations following surgical procedures.
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Caring for children with cancer is extremely delicate. Parents and families are usually understandably in shock after a diagnosis is made. Pediatric oncology NPs can assist families in managing the diagnosis by offering resources such as support groups, social work referrals, financial planning, and even arrange care with a psychiatrist as needed. Stress, anxiety, and grief are common in families of children with cancer, so a pediatric oncology NP needs to be able to utilize the available resources to support a patient's medical as well as psychosocial needs.
Working as a pediatric oncology NP is not just challenging for patients and families. NPs may also struggle with the emotional toll it takes when caring for children with cancer. It's important as caregivers to take care of oneself, especially when working with a challenging patient population. Having a healthy outlet for stress helps, which may be in the form of exercise, meditation, travel, or even talking with peers. Sometimes even taking a break can help.
While pediatric oncology can be an emotional challenge for NPs, it is also extremely rewarding. The NP can help support families on their journey by acting as a lifeline. Having a "constant" in the chaos of cancer treatment is extremely necessary for parents. Moreover, assisting patients and families during the grief of a terminal diagnosis as well during the joy of a remission diagnosis is invaluable.