Advanced Nurse Practitioners – Working to Improve Life Expectancy
A new study has found that cancer patients, and lung cancer patients in particular, live longer when cared for by advanced nurse practitioners. The research took place at the University of Nottingham and London South Bank University and looked at more than 100,000 cases of lung cancer to see if the quality of care impacted on mortality rates.
The study looked at more than 108,000 lung cancer diagnoses between the years of 2007 and 2011, while also surveying more than 200 lung cancer specialist nurses about the teams and working practices at their trusts. The findings not only confirmed that lung cancer patients had a longer life expectancy when cared for by specialist lung cancer nurses, but also that there were fewer emergency admissions and complications during and after treatment.
The researchers also linked their findings to create an overall picture of the role of specialist nurses during treatment. Their data showed the impact advanced nurse practitioners have on cancer patients receiving the main four types of treatment: surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and palliative or end of life care.
Key findings on advanced nurse practitioners and life expectancy
The authors of the study revealed some key findings that could be instrumental in the way we treat cancer patients in the future. The study of lung cancer patients showed the following:
- Patients receiving radiotherapy and chemotherapy had a lower risk of emergency admission or early death when being assessed and cared for by advanced nurse practitioners. This was especially true where patients began contact with a specialist nurse at the time of diagnosis.
- Radiotherapy patients who were assessed by an advanced nurse practitioner were 17% less likely to die in the first year of their diagnosis than those not seen by a lung cancer nurse specialist.
- The mortality risk for chemotherapy patients was reduced when nurses reported feeling confident working within a multi-disciplinary team.
- Patients receiving palliative care had a lower chance of unplanned or emergency admissions, as well as respiratory problems if they were assessed early. An early assessment was also linked to lower emergency admissions in surgical patients.
If there’s one aspect of the study to shed light on the nature of cancer treatment, it is the impact of timing when it comes to initial patient assessments. In the study, it was found that early evaluations by lung cancer specialist nurses resulted in a lower risk of emergency admission for all patients.
Advanced nurse practitioners are pivotal in the care of cancer patients
Iain Stewart, assistant professor of medical statistics at the University of Nottingham, said that the research showed timely nurse involvement and effective multidisciplinary teams lead to a better life for cancer patients and their families. “It is essential that workforces are empowered to deliver the best care,” he added.
It is clear from these findings that receiving care from a lung nurse specialist is fundamental to better outcomes in lung cancer patients, and perhaps cancer patients overall. But in the future of nursing, what can medical professionals do with this information?
We need more specialist nurse practitioners in the workforce
Vanessa Beattie, chair of the National Lung Cancer Forum for Nurses, says we need to do more to amplify the important role of lung cancer nurse specialists:
“This work demonstrates that lung cancer nurse specialists are pivotal in the care for patients and are at the frontline of cancer care. An increase in the lung cancer nurse specialist workforce is required in order to continue to deliver the high-quality care, which is reflected in this work.”
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