The Abramson Cancer Center at Penn Medicine Chester County Hospital, based in West Chester, PA, is a Commission on Cancer–accredited oncology program dedicated to providing patients with accessible state-of-the-art care in a community hospital setting. The center’s services consist of prevention, early detection, diagnosis, and treatment (including medical and radiation oncology and surgical management), as well as survivorship, palliative, and hospice care.
The Oncology Nurse-APN/PA (TON) recently interviewed Sandy Camarota, MSN, CRNP, AOCNP, Oncology Nurse Practitioner and Survivorship Program Coordinator at Abramson Cancer Center. In this article, Ms Camarota discusses her responsibilities, the essential role that nurses play in assisting patients throughout their cancer journey, ongoing obstacles to care that still need to be addressed, the rewards and challenges of her job, and the importance of achieving a healthy life/work balance.
Ms Camarota: My role at Abramson Cancer Center is twofold. First, I practice with my collaborative physician seeing hematology/oncology patients in the clinic who are currently receiving active treatment or follow-up services. Second, I am the Survivorship Coordinator for the cancer program. In this role, I work with a survivorship nurse navigator. We provide survivorship care planning to patients who have completed treatment, develop educational programs and services for all patients, and participate in community events. We partner with colleagues to provide survivorship resources to our patients throughout their cancer journey.
I also serve as a member of the hospital’s Cancer Committee and the Breast Health Task Force. These are multidisciplinary committees that provide leadership and oversight to ensure that our cancer program meets standards set forth by the Commission on Cancer and National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers.
Ms Camarota: The most prominent “ongoing” obstacle is Covid-19. With new strains emerging and rising cases in the community, this remains a daily challenge. Our nurses have been extremely adaptable and flexible as guidelines and recommendations are continually changing. Utilizing technology to communicate information has been the most helpful tool we have found to address these issues. Our EMR has functionality that allows us to message patients and providers who are on the same platform. We are also able to view test results and provider notes within other health systems.
Ms Camarota: We are fortunate to be a part of an extremely generous community. Through the Chester County Hospital Foundation, several volunteer organizations raise money via fundraising events each year. These donations help to support a “wig program,” transportation for patients receiving treatment, counseling, and other much-needed services.
Although this is not an all-inclusive list, other services that we provide our patients include genetic testing, nurse navigation, nutritional counseling, exercise, integrative and psychosocial services, educational programs, support groups, and a biannual Survivorship “Next Steps” workshop.
We are also working with local cardiologists to create a cardio-oncology referral program. Additionally, we are working to develop an educational Pre-habilitation program with our physical therapy team. Our goal is to care for the cancer survivor, “body, mind, and spirit.”
Ms Camarota: One recent advance that I have high hopes for pertains to precision medicine. For some types of cancer, we are now able to use testing to identify actionable mutations that can be targeted for treatment. Although there are currently some limitations, I think the potential is great to provide more personalized medicine as it pertains to cancer.
Ms Camarota: The ability to get to know my patients and families has been the most rewarding aspect of my job and it is what drew me to oncology nursing at the beginning of my career. I consider it a privilege and an honor to be able to witness the personal growth of my patients through their cancer journey and to share in their stories.
Ms Camarota: One of the greatest challenges we are currently facing relates to the recent closure of 2 local hospitals. Our administration, clinicians, and staff are working tirelessly to provide care to the patients who were served by these hospitals and accommodate increased patient volumes within our system.
Ms Camarota: Self-care is critical to prevent burnout. We work in an environment with vulnerable people during some of the most difficult times in their lives. And the reality is, some of us have also experienced our own challenges and hardships. I think we need to be less critical and work hard to support ourselves and each other. It is important to give each other permission to take time for our mental and physical health. We also need to surround ourselves with people and things that lift us up and avoid things that bring us down.
Penn Medicine is dedicated to the health and well-being of its employees and has an employee assistance program to support mental and behavioral health. For those experiencing challenges with anxiety, depression, stress, work-life balance, or other concerns, Penn Medicine offers helpful support from peers, resilience coaches, therapists, psychiatrists, and other resources.
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