In this, the final part in a 3-part series, we highlight presentations from the closing day of the conference and take a quick look at some of the industry sponsored educational features.
This presentation, by Gabriel Ghanoum, PsyD, offered a comprehensive overview of palliative and end-of-life care from a psychological and spiritual perspective. Today, many patients with incurable cancer are living longer, and palliative care is recommended for more patients than ever before. Moreover, oncology experts recommend palliative care be included alongside standard care (Dans et al, 2017; Ferrell et al, 2016). Yet, many continue to misunderstand the meaning and function of palliative care.
According to Dr Ghanoum, palliative care should be viewed as a holistic “philosophy of care” that “meets patients where they are.” Dr Ghanoum returned to this idea several times during the discussion, emphasizing the crucial aspect of accommodating to each patient’s individual needs while focusing on reducing suffering, enhancing meaning, and improving the quality of life. This philosophy of care also includes the participation of a highly structured multidisciplinary team and an emphasis on the involvement of the patient’s family members.
As Dr Ghanoum explained, dying is a natural process that is profoundly personal for the individual and family. As such, palliative care affirms life by working to achieve the best possible quality of life and to relieve suffering. These goals can be achieved by controlling symptoms, restoring functional capacity to the patient, and by remaining aware of the many dimensions of the patient’s life, including their cultural and religious values, beliefs, and practices.
From an emotional and spiritual perspective, offering patients a guided exploration of their pain, distress, and suffering can impart a sense of meaning to their end-of-life experience. While serious illness is a crisis that often brings existential despair for the patient, it can also be an opportunity for a deeper sense of connectedness and an opening to the possibility of finding hope in suffering and the end-of-life journey.
Another aspect of palliative care that Dr Ghanoum stressed is the importance of the early integration of palliative care. He stated that early integration improves quality of life, reduces symptoms, and may improve overall survival. In addition, it has also been found to decrease caregiver distress.
Finally, Dr Ghanoum delved into the topic of implementing a Medical Ministry as an adjunct to a navigation program to provide additional ways of preventing despair. Such a ministry can also operate as a place for managing psychological pain and initiating conversations about serious illness. He also presented a guide to facilitating these conversations as well as many additional resources that navigators may find of value.
Powerful Conversations with Your Oncology Colleagues
The final general session of the conference offered an entertaining and informative panel on best practices for fostering cooperation among colleagues. Expert workplace communications consultant, Ryan Soisson, MA Phil, MA HR, took volunteer participants through a number of real-world scenarios and brainstormed effective solutions to avoid conflicts and prevent them from escalating. Actionable strategies that used humor and compassion to arrive at mutually satisfying resolutions were demonstrated through real-time trouble-shooting exercises.
These techniques for effective communication can be applied in the workplace but may also prove to be useful in navigating personal relationships as well. Gain the skills necessary to see others’ perspectives and better understand how to manage disagreements while strengthening workplace collaboration and maintaining positive outcomes for patients. Learn immediately applicable skills for addressing difficult situations while preserving relationships, including how to:
- Show up as your best self
- Address the real issues
- Manage “unhelpful” reactions
- Work toward common solutions
Educational Opportunities Presented by Oncology Pharmaceutical Professionals
One of the most popular features of the AONN+ conferences is the opportunity provided for in-depth product education sessions. Oncology pharmacy is a rapidly and ever-evolving field, and navigators are on the front lines when it comes to new treatments.
In addition to the exhibit hall, which features a wide array of specialist information and demonstrations that navigators will find of interest in developing their careers or in fostering patient success, the product theaters and industry sponsored sessions bring pharmaceutical professionals, including oncologists, researchers, and nurses, face-to-face with navigators to present the latest research findings and to share best practices.
As oncology research progresses and new protocols emerge, navigators need to be aware of the potential benefits and adverse effects of the medications their patients are prescribed. In sponsored sessions that highlight a particular pharmaceutical, professional industry speakers offered their expertise and described their clinical experiences as well as presenting the most recent data on a selection of widely used treatments. Armed with these expert insights, navigators are better able to help ensure the best outcomes for their patients. We were proud to offer several such educational opportunities at this meeting, including presentations by:
- Bristol Myers Squibb
- Eli Lilly
By attending these sessions, navigators gain up-to-date knowledge about the range of products and services available for positive patient outcomes.