Background: The value of staff development and continuing professional development for support staff (medical assistants, front desk staff, and new patient coordinators) in the oncology setting is often overlooked. A review of the literature indicates that little has been done in developing cancer education programs for the above group. The nurse navigators were challenged with taking a leadership role to develop and implement a cancer education program.
Objectives: To enhance the knowledge of oncology support staff and to help them better understand the cancer patient experience. A secondary goal was to educate them on the role of the oncology nurse navigator in the cancer continuum and to highlight the multiple resources available for our patients.
Methods: Our team partnered with Abramson Cancer Center (ACC) leadership in developing the program regarding dates and times that staff could attend the course. The content outline was based on the Oncology Nursing Society Cancer Basics course but adapted to meet the needs of the attendees, many of whom had only basic medical knowledge. The first class, Cancer 101, focused on highlighting the patient experience, which increased the staff’s understanding of cancer care delivery. A pre- and posttest were utilized to measure the improvement in the staff’s oncology knowledge. From the evaluations, a need for further education was identified, resulting in the development of additional disease-specific modules, Cancer 102 and 103. The nurse navigators taught these modules based on their areas of expertise. Feedback from both series identified the need for further education surrounding the emotional impact of working in oncology, which has been developed and taught by our social work colleagues.
Results: A total of 100 staff members have attended 1 or more of the Cancer 101, 102, and 103 sessions. Common themes identified from the evaluation comments included affirmation of increased knowledge, engagement, relationship building, and empowerment. Feedback also indicated a better understanding of the patient perspective and allowed staff to empathize and empowered them to problem-solve issues to enhance the patient experience. Posttest scores improved slightly, and written evaluations demonstrated the program’s objectives were met. The attendees found the information about resources, roles of team members, and trials/treatment options to be most helpful. The majority of staff prefer this type of in-person presentation, would like more educational opportunities, and felt better able to care for our patients.
Conclusion: The outcome of this program was extremely positive both in written and verbal feedback. We learned the importance of a small group with a face-to-face setting, allowing for the opportunity to share stories, ask questions, and build relationships. The development of this program and investment in staff education is in direct alignment with our institution’s mission and values of education, opportunity, and collaboration. The cancer education series will be offered biannually to all new support staff in the ACC. Due to the success of the program, requests have been made for this program to be delivered to other oncology sites within our health system.