Hematology/Oncology Advanced Practice Providers Help Develop Online Courseware
- Courses can serve as part of a blended learning approach to education.
- Developed in line with industry standards in collaboration with clinicians.
- Learners can review Hem/Onc courses at an individualized pace.
"We all come into this for the same reasons, one of the biggest ones being to establish relationships with our patients," says Jennifer Randall, RN, MSN, PPCNP-BC and outpatient hematology/oncology (Hem/Onc) nurse practitioner at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
"It's a privilege to be part of someone's life when they are going through something so traumatic. From continuing on that journey with them through their struggles to seeing them get to the end and celebrating, education helps us do our jobs as best we can."
Randall, along with Anne Grifo, RN, MSN, CRNP and outpatient Hem/Onc nurse practitioner at CHOP and five other professionals, put their decades of experience caring for pediatric Hem/Onc patients to use on the Pediatric learning Solutions (PLS) Hematology/Oncology Suite Advisory Committee in 2021.
This committee identified top educational needs among Hem/Onc clinicians. Using their input, PLS created the Hem/Onc Suite, including new online courseware, to meet these needs.
Grifo and Randall share their experiences working on the committee, authoring a course, and exploring the value of accessibility to online, self-paced learning courseware.
Sharing their knowledge
"It was interesting to talk to nurses, nurse practitioners, and advance practice nurses on the committee from around the country during committee meetings," Grifo says. "I found that we have similarities in the way we practice because we follow the protocols of the Children's Oncology Group (COG), so our backgrounds were similar in a lot of ways."
While there are standards for many oncology treatment plans, Randall says that hematology treatments can vary depending upon the doctor designing the treatment plan and the needs of each patient.
"It was interesting to hear what the advisory committee members experiences have been, how they treat hematology patients, and the diagnoses they see most commonly in the hematology department," Randall says.
After working with others on the advisory committee to identify topics, Randall and Grifo helped author the course Pediatric Leukemia and Lymphoma.
Filling a gap
While the COG sets many of the standards for caring for pediatric oncology patients, the Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON) provides standardized education and certifications for nurses specifically. APHON's education takes place in the form of two-day live workshops with a presenter working through information, providing practice time, and the opportunity to sit for an exam at the end to earn a certificate and (CNE) credits.
APHON's classes are regarded as industry standard, however, educators have also expressed a need for materials that learners can re-visit and review at an individual pace. The PLS Hem/Onc Suite is designed to fill this gap for organizations wanting to use a blended learning approach to Hem/Onc education.
"All of this course content is valuable, the covering of the pathophysiology, discussing the treatments and outcomes," says Randall. "The case scenarios are great and help learners apply the knowledge they've learned from the courses."
A rounded approach to learning
In addition to the education clinicians receive in school, CHOP provides staff with access to a blended learning program consisting of classroom education, video series and online courseware. Pediatric Leukemia and Lymphoma, the course Randall and Grifo helped author, and three other new Hem/Onc courses released in Q1 of 2022 are among online learning resources available to staff at CHOP and other PLS participating hospitals.
Despite all these learning opportunities, Randall says one of the most valuable is working with the doctors, researchers, fellow nurses, and nurse practitioners.
"Some of our doctors have made medical advances," she says. "Getting to see that and hear them educate us on what has changed, what is new, and the best practices to care for our patients is humbling. We also learn from our patients. Each day I pick up on something new from a patient, parent or colleague."
While Randall and Grifo agreed that much of their learning occurs on the job, they stressed the value of access to individual learning materials for clinicians who want to explore certain topics more, who may be considering switching disciplines, and who want to understand as much as possible to provide the best care to their patients.
"The more [clinicians] know, the better patient outcomes are going to be," says Grifo. "Even if a nurse is performing an easy task, being able to explain and understand the pathophysiology of the patient's diagnosis and standards of treatment will help them anticipate any problems and explain things to families."
Grifo also emphasized the effect knowledge can have on job satisfaction.
"Nursing can be very task-oriented, but if you understand all of the science behind your job, it is more satisfying to know you're playing a role in the bigger picture."