CURE Childhood Cancer is making a real difference in patient care by supporting the education and training for the nurses who care for children with cancer. The use of chemotherapy and biotherapy to treat childhood cancers has increased over the years as a result of research that has led to many new clinical trials. However, in order to safely administer these therapies to children and adolescents, highly specialized training is needed. CURE provides financial support for this training and thus impacts patient care in a very positive way.
Two years ago my manager and educator asked me to become an instructor for a new course, The Pediatric Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Curriculum. The goal of the course is to establish education standards as well as promote more consistent practices for the administration of chemotherapy and biotherapy to children and adolescents. Nurses are taught about cancer cell characteristics, pharmacokinetics, classification of antineoplastic agents and safe handling of the agents, ethical principles of chemotherapy and biotherapy and psychosocial issues related to treatment. They are also taught to assess, manage and teach patients and their families about chemotherapy and biotherapy.
After the registered nurse completes the course and passes an exam, he or she is nationally certified for a period of two years to administer chemotherapy and biotherapy. The nurse must then further demonstrate clinical competence through his or her institution on an annual basis.
At Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, the nurse must complete a chemotherapy administration checklist under the guidance of a chemo certified nurse. Every two years, the registered nurse must retake an exam to ensure his or her knowledge, safe practices and competency.
The Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, because of its national prominence and patient population, must not only have a substantial number of nurses certified to administer chemotherapy and biotherapy, but must also have certified instructors who are approved to teach the curriculum and prepare other nurses for the exam. To become a certified instructor, a registered nurse must be a certified pediatric oncology nurse (CPON) with a bachelor’s or more advanced degree, have 2 years of experience, have completed the Pediatric Chemotherapy and Biotherapy Curriculum and passed the exam. The nurse then must attend a one-day course focusing on instruction in adult education principles, provider course administration, teaching strategies, and review of the provider course teaching materials. Once the nurse successfully completes the program, he/she receives an instructor certification that must be renewed every two years. To maintain certification, the nurse must teach a minimum of one class each year and complete the required documentation.
The curriculum is financially supported by CURE Childhood Cancer. CURE’s dollars support each registered nurse at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta who either becomes a provider or an instructor. Without the financial support of CURE, we would not be able to offer the course to all our registered nurses so they have the opportunity to become nationally certified. As of today, CURE has sponsored more than 50% of our inpatient and outpatient staff to become nationally certified chemotherapy providers, as well as sponsored five registered nurses to become instructors. The goal of the Aflac Cancer Center at CHOA is to have all 130 registered nurses become nationally certified by the end of 2010. It is a goal I believe we will reach thanks to the generosity and foresight of CURE!