Explore our ACCC 2020 Impact Report, the Oncology Issues, Vol.36 N.5, and our video podcast, CANCER BUZZ TV.
 

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President's Theme 2021-2022

KRISTA NELSON Circle

Krista Nelson, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW was named president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) on Friday, March 5, at the ACCC 47th Annual Meeting and Cancer Center Business Summit. Ms. Nelson will lead ACCC for the next year, as oncology professionals work to tackle critical issues in cancer care post-pandemic.   

Each year, ACCC invites its president to select a theme for their tenure that addresses a timely issue in cancer care through the creation of programs and resources. The theme of Ms. Nelson’s presidency will be “Real-World Lessons from COVID-19: Driving Oncology Care Forward.” 

This year-long President’s Theme will focus on three key lessons:  

  1. Health equity and social justice are critical drivers of quality cancer care, and practice-based solutions are needed that reduce barriers and improve health outcomes.  

  2. The escalating need for high reach, high impact psychosocial and supportive care services require innovative care delivery models that demonstrate measurable value to the oncology ecosystem.  

  3. Strengthening a culture that supports professional well-being and resilience is essential to practice sustainability, and provider and patient satisfaction.  

 

“Oncology professionals have shown remarkable resilience and innovation in the face of extraordinary challenges,” said Nelson. “Without a doubt, our community will use the lessons we’ve learned this past year to develop a blueprint for moving forward.”  

The resources and tools that will be developed in conjunction with Ms. Nelson’s President’s Theme will be posted to this webpage as they become available. 

Theme Announcement

 

Coffee Chats

During her term, Ms. Nelson will host six virtual Coffee Chats—intimate and interactive conversations to better understand how ACCC can support your needs during this pivotal time in oncology. To express interest in participating, please email us!

On-Demand Webinars

From Oncology Issues

  •  Trending Now in Cancer Care
    Alexandria Howson, PhD
    Rather than fielding its annual Trending Now in Cancer Care survey while cancer programs were experiencing unprecedented challenges due to the extended public health emergency, ACCC chose to facilitate conversations with its members to capture the lived experiences of the most pertinent issues impacting oncology practice and care delivery.
  •  Driving Oncology Forward
    Krista Nelson, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW
    This next year, as we emerge out of COVID-19’s shadow and into a landscape that has been forever altered by the worldwide pandemic, it is important that we reflect on what we witnessed this past year—not only the suffering but the “wins.”
  •  Telehealth at Its Best: Transitioning a Comprehensive Psychosocial Program to a Virtual Format
    Jennifer Bires, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, and Drucilla Brethwaite, MSW, LCSW
    Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated risks for patients with cancer, all Life with Cancer programming was cancelled on Mar. 12, 2020. Staff, struggling with their own anxiety over personal safety, quickly went into action on how best to continue to meet the psychological and educational needs of patients and families.
  •  Community-Based Psychological First Aid for Oncology Professionals
    By Sam Gaster, MA; Christina Early, MSW; Amanda Reed, PhD; and Brandon Gray, MA
    Training in community-based psychological first aid is a promising intervention that promotes adaptive functioning by instilling individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to support oneself and others when stressful events occur. The Avera Cancer Institute, Sioux Falls, S.D., has conducted community-based psychological first aid for its workforce since August 2017.
  •  Bridging the Gap: A Family Program for Parents with Cancer and their Children
    By Krista Nelson, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C
    In 2004 Providence Cancer Center, Portland, Ore., saw that patients with children were struggling to communicate with their families about their illness and developed the Providence Family Program, which uses a group model to deliver early and ongoing intervention and support throughout the cancer care journey.

Video Podcast

 

Mindfulness Meditations

To help members of the cancer care team better manage stress and improve their overall well-being, Ms. Nelson—and several special guests—are hosting a Mindfulness Meditation series.
Learn More

CANCER Buzz Podcasts

  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 67: Coping with Pandemic Grief
    Sep 14, 2021
    In this special podcast episode, we talk with oncology social worker and ACCC President Krista Nelson, MSW, LCSW, OSW-C, FAOSW, about the overwhelming grief of the pandemic and its toll on cancer care professionals.  
  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 64: A Summer of Disconnect for Cancer Professionals
    Jul 20, 2021
    In this episode, we focus on the mental and emotional toll that COVID-19 continues to have on cancer care professionals—while much of the public experiences a “summer of joy” due to rising vaccinations.
  • [VIDEO PODCAST] Ep 01: Real-World Lessons from COVID-19
    May 27, 2021

    We sat down with ACCC President Krista Nelson, on how her personal experiences during the pandemic—and those of her colleagues and patients—deeply impacted her and influenced the development of her 2021-2022 ACCC President’s Theme.

  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 28: Staff Resiliency During COVID-19
    Jul 7, 2020

    Krista Nelson, ACCC President 2021-22, shares how Providence Cancer Institute has made staff resiliency and morale a priority during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • [MINI-PODCAST] Ep 14: COVID-19 Self-Care
    Mar 31, 2020

    Krista Nelson, ACCC President 2021-22, shares self-care resources for cancer team members during the COVID-19 outbreak and guides us through a brief mindfulness exercise.

  • [PODCAST] Ep 02: Fostering Cancer Care Team Resiliency & Well-Being
    Jul 31, 2019
    Learn how organizations like Vidant Health and The Outer Banks Hospital are creating a healthier, more rewarding workplace by making employee wellness a strategic priority.

Social Workers Promote Health Literacy With Ask Me 3


July 15, 2020

“I don’t know a single cancer patient who is not anxious,” says Jenn Paxton, LCSW, OSW-C, a social worker at Texas Oncology in South Dallas. Paxton, who meets with cancer patients from the recently diagnosed to those dealing with end-of-life issues, says accurate, empathetic communication that meets patients where they are on their cancer journeys is essential to providing quality care. Key to doing that is reinforcing health literacy by addressing patients with compassion, clearly communicating information about their disease and treatment, and ensuring they understand.

Often, patients’ and caregivers’ first impression of a healthcare team member is based in part based on their communication style. If patients perceive a provider as unempathetic, confusing, or even cold, they can quickly become removed and frightened. Trust is an essential part of the provider/patient relationship. When those relationships get off on the wrong foot, it can affect a patient’s entire cancer journey.

To help patients and providers better listen to, hear, and understand one another, cancer team members must recognize that patients may not always understand medical jargon, and they are certainly not prepared to decode it in moments of personal crisis.

Ask Me 3® is a tool developed by health literacy experts at the Institute for Healthcare Improvement that encourages patients to ask three simple questions—and urges providers to adequately answer them—each time they communicate:

  1. What is my main problem?
  2. What do I need to do?
  3. Why is it important for me to do this?

As we all know, communication is a two-way street. ACCC worked with care team members at Texas Oncology to create a video that demonstrates how compassionate responses to patients’ concerns can engage them and promote effective communication throughout the care continuum. ACCCBuzz recently talked to Jenn Paxton about why Ask Me 3® is an effective tool for promoting patient health literacy.

ACCCBuzz: Tell us about yourself and where you work. 

Paxton: I’m a licensed clinical social worker and an oncology-certified social worker. I've been with Texas Oncology for about two and a half years. I’ve been working in medical oncology social work for about a decade, including at Methodist Dallas and the American Cancer Society. 

Here in South Dallas, our patients are often resource-limited, so much of my job is educating them about the resources available to them in the community. Our Texas Oncology team has a good understanding of the economic barriers that our patients face, so they refer them to me often. Our patients face issues with time off from work; paying for rent, utilities, and transportation; daily living expenses; and childcare—all of which are huge barriers to getting consistent treatment and having a good outcome.

ACCCBuzz: What is your role on the cancer care team?

Paxton: My team uses me to meet patients' non-medical needs. Consistency is key for medical treatment. When we have patients that don’t have PTO or time off, and they have long treatment cycles, they’re missing work, which means they’re missing pay. And if they’re living paycheck-to-paycheck, they now have to decide, “Do I want a place to stay, or do I want to have treatment?” 

I work with patients to obtain tangible support, but we also have patients with psychosocial needs. Many patients experience distress when they are diagnosed. That can be increased by some of the things family members may tell them, or what they’ve heard at church, or what they’ve seen on TV. Some of them have difficulty knowing how to talk to their kids and how to communicate with their doctor about their diagnosis and treatment. I can offer patients short-term therapy/counseling, either one-on-one or with family members. My job allows me to meet patients where they are in their treatment, whether it be at diagnosis or end of life.  

ACCCBuzz: How do you help patients communicate with their care team?

Paxton: Many times, patients come to me with questions that they haven’t asked their provider. So I work with them on how to best speak with their provider about their concerns, and I intercede on their behalf with the entire healthcare team. I think that I’m more accessible to them, so I can provide a link between them and their treatment team.

One of the things that I do is sit down with patients and help them identify and articulate their questions so they can get the most out of their appointments. Nothing is more frustrating than asking what you feel is a straightforward question and then getting an answer that doesn’t feel like it's anywhere in the ballpark of what you’ve asked.

ACCCBuzz: How do you help patients cope with their cancer diagnosis?

Paxton: I try to meet patients where they are. Sometimes we have someone for whom living with cancer is going to be their “new normal.” While their metastatic disease is not curable, it is treatable. In those cases, we focus on how we can help a patient process that information and learn to live for a long time while in treatment. And then for our patients for whom we cannot do anything, we focus on how we help them live well while dying.

ACCCBuzz: Why is health literacy important?

Paxton: I don’t know a cancer patient who is not anxious. They will often go online and see concerning or inaccurate information that people put out there. Building a patient’s health literacy helps them find the right answers to their questions or even formulate what questions they should ask. 

Often when a physician explains things to a patient and then asks, “Do you have any questions?” the patient says, “no,” and then leaves. But they do have questions; they just don’t know how to ask them. I think having health literacy and being able to ask and answer your questions gives you confidence in your relationship with your care team.

ACCCBuzz: What makes Ask Me 3® an effective tool for helping patients increase their health literacy?

Paxton: I like Ask Me 3® because it’s very succinct and very simple. I think shared decision-making is often a big gap in treating patients with cancer, even with the best doctors. Patients want to know that they have control over what happens to their body. 

It’s very difficult, especially with cancer, when your provider says, “You’re going to do this, and then you’re going to do that, and then you’re going to do that, and this is why.” I often talk to patients about how treatment is a team effort and why we have different modalities, such as radiation oncology, medical oncology, and surgery. 

When patients have more information, they are more confident in making decisions. They are less rattled when people in their life try to intervene or make suggestions that make them uncomfortable. They’re more compliant with treatment. It’s very positive when both the provider and the patient and their family are on the same page.

ACCCBuzz: Is there a role for health literacy after treatment?  

Paxton: Promoting health literacy is essential in post-treatment survivorship. Patients sometimes don’t understand that after they are treated for a specific cancer, they can still experience long-term side effects or develop a different cancer unrelated to their primary one. Many patients think as soon as they're finished with treatment, they're done. They’re not ever going to have cancer again. They also need to know what resources are available to them if they lose their insurance, change jobs, or move. They may need to identify new providers in the future. As a part of the survivorship team, I am able to speak to patients to help them understand what the next steps are after treatment ends. 

Ask Me 3® is an effective, simple, easy-to-use tool, but it may not be enough on its own to increase patient engagement. Patients and staff need to be educated about the importance of maintaining open communication, asking questions, and refraining from assumptions or judgement. To learn more about the important role of health literacy in effective cancer treatment and to access additional tools to enable better patient/provider education, visit ACCC’s Health Literacy page.

 

 

Resources

The Business Case for Hiring New Staff
A series of five discipline-specific business briefs. Additional briefs will be developed in 2021.

Ask Me 3® Health Literacy Tool
This explainer video demonstrates how the Ask Me 3 tool promotes patient health literacy.