When my mother was a radiation technician in 1950s London and Philadelphia, there wasn’t much in the way of a social support network for healthcare professionals treating patients with cancer (let alone for the patients). The resources and technology were not what they are now and compassion fatigue and stress of the job would take their toll in a big way.
Although the stress of that role and others like it hasn’t gone away, a UBM Medica website backed by a Bristol-Myers Squibb (NYSE:BMY) is providing a social network for oncology nurses and other cancer care team members. It’s set be renewed and expanded based on some encouraging findings.
The Oncology Nurse Community or TheONC was launched in February with the goal of improving the quality of patient care and providing support and useful insights for oncology nurses.
“We’re a community and so it’s different from an informational website. It’s a way for nurses and social workers, and even physicians and dietitians to work together,” said Michelle Bragazzi, a community editor for TheONC.org. “Even though you enjoy it, there is a risk of emotional burnout. But there is definitely a lot more support today for oncology nurses than there was 13 years ago.”
Since its launch, the majority of engagement on the network, which is restricted to healthcare professionals, has been with the blog section. Additionally, it has weekly quizzes, an area where users can post questions, reader boards and webinars every six to seven weeks. More recently, it began offering continuing nursing education (CNE) credits. Among the conversation topics listed on its message boards most recently are: Encountering death as a new nurse; Lance Armstrong: cancer savior or doping devil?; Thinking like a child can help with coping; and Colon cancer survivors: beware of high carb intake.
David Donovan, the vice president of digital project management at Norwalk, Connecticut-based UBM Medica, explained that one of the challenges of the network was to quantitatively measure whether there has been an increase in patient care quality. “We worked with a third party to assess outcomes and it has had a better effect based on a survey of the 5,200 members.”
Among the areas covered in the survey were fertility, palliative care, nutrition and test evaluations. About 84 percent of respondents said they have applied what they’ve learned on the network to day-to-day care of their patients, according to an emailed statement from UBM. Almost 90 percent said it’s helped them deliver improved care to patients with cancer.