Since this week is Urology Nurses and Associates Week, at BCAN we are highlighting a few nurses making a difference in the lives of people with bladder cancer.
Deborah Hensley, BSN, RN, CURN, Immediate Past President of the Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates (SUNA). She is a registered nurse at UT Southwestern Medical Center in the Department of Urology. She is also a member of the Data Safety Monitoring Committee for the randomized trial titled “Open vs. Robotic-Assisted Radical Cystectomy” (RO1, Protocol 36911).
How did you decide to become a urology nurse?
I actually “fell” into urology nursing when I was relocated to San Antonio in 1997 with my husband’s job and took a job in urology. I quickly learned the importance of working with urology patients due to the sensitive nature of having urologic healthcare concerns and how nurses can significantly impact their quality of life.
What are the biggest challenges of the job?
There is an increased demand for health care services with an aging population and a parallel shortage of nurses. Many nurses face the challenges of more demanding schedules, and increased patient loads, which means the need for more education and self care due to shorter hospital stays and increased technology. There is also general lack of urology-specific curriculum offered in nursing programs. Urologic nursing is a unique specialty that is often learned on the job and through experience. Formal educational programs specific to urology nursing are few in comparison to other nursing specialties. Professional organizations such as SUNA can fill the education gap offering specialty education, certification and networking opportunities to keep nurses current on the delivery of quality healthcare. SUNA allows members to stay abreast of cutting edge information and evidence-based clinical care. We can also celebrate our specialty practice and the extraordinary care and efforts that reinforce the commitment of our shared values to each other, our patients and the families and communities that we serve!
What is most rewarding about this work?
Urologic nurses and associates are actively involved in the education of patients and their families and have the opportunity to help patients understand their urologic condition. Nurses can foster independence by teaching self management skills in a variety of ways that ultimately improves the patient’s quality of life. Spending quality time with a bladder cancer patient to convey compassion and understanding of their disease while delivering an intravescial chemotherapy treatment or watching a patient master the skill of self-catheterization to manage their bladder condition so they can become more independent is very rewarding!
In your opinion, what are the biggest needs in bladder cancer? What would you like to see change? (in addition to finding a cure!)
I feel the biggest need for bladder cancer care is more research to find methodologies that allow patients to make lifestyle changes that can mitigate the course of the disease. Also, we need to discover better ways to offer accurate and cost-effective community screenings for early detection and prevention of bladder cancer.
What can be done to raise awareness about bladder cancer?
There is still a huge need to educate the public on the causes of bladder cancer as well as prevention. As nurses we have many unique opportunities to provide health education and counsel patients on preventative care and lifestyle changes. I also think there needs to be more emphasis placed on public awareness such as in the media.