By: Mary Grace Anne P. Batalla, MA, RN, University of the Philippines Manila, College of Nursing
It has always been a great opportunity to participate in a conference for oncology nurses with the goal of disseminating results that will further improve nursing practice and patient care. Last 19-21 November 2015, I attended the Asian Oncology Nursing Society (AONS) Conference held at St. Mary’s Hospital in Seoul, South Korea. The theme of the conference was “Flying the Spirit of Asian Oncology Nursing.” The event was attended by more than seven hundred delegates from different countries.
A number of studies were presented during the conference focusing on different aspects of cancer care such as prevention and screening, quality of life, symptom management, palliative care, and survivorship. Researches ranged from qualitative studies to systematic reviews of the literature, providing various levels of evidence across population groups. For my part, I presented my study on the spirituality of colorectal cancer patients with fecal ostomy in the early postoperative phase and a case report on addressing hopelessness in a patient with acute lymphoblastic leukemia with multiple organ infiltration.
Being an adult intensive care unit nurse, I further developed a strong specialist interest in oncology and stoma nursing. As an ICU nurse, it was not uncommon to be challenged by the complexity of managing life-threatening complications from malignancies and varied bioethical issues primarily concerning patient care. Even after transferring to the University of the Philippines as a faculty member, I continued my clinical practice at the Philippine General Hospital in my capacity as a member of the stoma nurses core group catering to in-hospital ostomy patients and as National Secretary of the Enterostomal Therapy Nurses Association of the Philippines.
Throughout my practice, I saw the burden of having been diagnosed with cancer and living a life with bowel diversion to both the patient and family. A consequence of this burden on quality of life is such that healthcare providers are expected to render services that are individualized and evidenced-based. In particular, with the multitude of participants from different parts of the world, studies presented during the conference raised awareness in promoting culturally-sensitive nursing care for oncology patients.
Colorectal cancer remains to be one of the top causes of morbidity and mortality in the world, and a leading cause of surgical formation of fecal ostomy. Though several studies have documented the physiological and social impact of the condition, the psychological experiences, most notably the spirituality, of such patients are less explored in literature. Results of the study suggested that spirituality is the least prioritized domain of the quality of life of these patients in the early postoperative phase. Patients have reported being left with the initiative of whether or not to carry on with their spiritual activities after the surgery. Interestingly, while some patients reported spirituality to have remained unchanged after ostomy formation, a unified theme among patterns describing this domain has been its strengthening in conjunction with the belief in a higher power.
Participating in the conference was a rewarding experience. While I had been very grateful for my study to be chosen as one of the Best Oral Presentations, I see the award as recognition of the fact that colorectal cancer patients with fecal ostomy do not only depend on nursing care for physiological issues and concerns but also for psychological and spiritual needs that make a holistic human being despite the burden of disease and disability. Moreover, while there are existing variations in sociopolitical, economic and cultural backgrounds, it was enlightening to observe commonalities in terms of addressing problems in ethical decision-making, appropriate use of technology, and roles of family caregivers over the trajectory of cancer care. The goal of delivering quality nursing care to provide an optimum patient and family experience is the thread that puts the entire experience together in a global perspective.