The Role of Technology in Oncology Nursing


Technology in oncology nursing

By Lee Soren, contributor

The ever-broadening role of technology in oncology nursing means that RNs are facing changes in how they must approach patient care. Nurses need to be well-versed in oncology-related equipment and high-tech procedures so they can help patients understand and prepare for treatment and possible side effects. The increased use of technology in current cancer treatments can also lead to an increased need for patient education and advocacy.

Here are four evolving technologies that play a large role in oncology nursing and are altering the job of RNs in this challenging field.

1. Robotics

Patients can now undergo robotic surgery to remove tumors in hard-to-reach places, and according to iData Research, in 2017 more than 693,000 robotic-assisted procedures were performed in the United States. Although the procedure is led by a surgeon, the robotic arm provides motion scaling and greater dexterity than traditional surgical tools. The equipment's high-definition 3D binocular lens enhances visualization for better accuracy. Procedures using robotics are generally minimally invasive and can result in less pain and shorter recovery times.

Oncology nurses who assist with robotic surgeries must be highly trained and demonstrate expertise in robotic surgical technology. RNs must also be prepared to handle any equipment malfunctions that may occur.

2. Image-guided radiation

Image-guided radiation therapy employs imaging techniques such as CT scans, MRIs, X-rays and ultrasound to deliver precise and accurate doses of radiation during treatment. IGRT is often used for tumors located in areas of the body that experience movements, such as the prostate or lungs. For patients, this can mean effective treatments with less damage to healthy tissue and fewer troubling side effects.

Although trained radiation therapists administer the treatment, oncology nurses may be involved before and after the procedure to educate the patient about the treatment and to monitor patients for side effects or adverse reactions.

3. Bar-code-enabled point-of-care technology

The use of bar code technology in hospitals and other major medical facilities is on the rise. Upon admission, patients are assigned a bar code and issued a bar-coded wristband. The technology lets doctors and nurses keep track of medication and specimen samples and trace important patient information.

Through the use of BPOC technology, nurses can ensure that the right patient is receiving the right treatment or medication to ensure safety and optimize outcomes. The technology should also streamline the workflow of oncology nurses, letting them work more efficiently by providing easy access to real-time patient information.

4. Electronic medical records

Electronic medical records are another way medical facilities are streamlining the jobs of nurses and other medical staff. Many facilities now use EMRs to ensure accuracy, and nurses are using computers on wheels to record patient data electronically.

Nurses can take these portable computers directly into patients' rooms to document their medical history, vital signs and nursing assessments for issues such as toxicities due to chemotherapy or radiation. Because these computers let nurses record their assessments in real-time, they can potentially increase the accuracy of the recorded data by eliminating mistakes caused by faulty memory, illegible handwriting or incomplete transcription of information.

Things to keep in mind

For facilities to successfully implement new technologies, their medical staff must be prepared to adapt their daily routines and learn new ways of doing things. Nurses, in particular, need to be well-versed in the equipment, software and supporting procedures involved.

Their new roles may include:

  • Scheduling patients for the use of equipment
  • Operating, maintaining and troubleshooting machinery
  • Testing equipment for safety and functionality prior to use
  • Understanding benefits, risks and potential side effects of new treatments
  • Helping patients manage expectations and preparing them to undergo treatments
  • Addressing new treatment-related side effects
  • Serving as a liaison between the patient and physician and acting as an advocate when necessary

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2020, nearly 5,000 new cancer cases will be diagnosed every day, but due in part to new technologies and treatments, many patients are emerging cancer-free. As technology evolves it can improve patient care, provide more efficient treatments and lead to fewer errors, resulting in better patient outcomes overall. Oncology nurses who are willing to embrace these increasingly advanced technologies can play an important role in moving the field of cancer treatment forward in new and exciting ways.

Travel oncology nurses who are well-versed in technologies related to cancer treatments are in high demand. Find your next assignment by searching our large database of jobs.





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