WHEELING - Domenique George, coordinator of Wheeling Hospital's Cancer Survivorship Program, has successfully met the criteria for advanced oncology certified nurse practitioner.
George's latest certification was obtained through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corp. She is one of only five nurses in West Virginia with the advanced certification.
"By being certified in oncology at the advanced level, I am more qualified to practice in the adult oncology specialty," George said. "The ONCC tests for proficiency in diagnosis of cancer, treatments, side effects, emergencies, psychosocial issues and many other aspects of cancer care."
Advanced oncology nurse practitioners help improve outcomes for cancer patients and their families by increasing health care access, promoting clinical excellence, improving patients' quality of life, documenting patient outcomes and increasing the cost effectiveness of care.
George works with Wheeling Hospital's Schiffler Cancer Center patients through their treatment and, afterward, in the cancer survivorship program.
During treatment, patients are often faced with a myriad of medical, financial and psychosocial questions. To assist the patients' unique needs, Schiffler also has five certified oncology nurse navigators.
The navigators guide patients - and their families - through their cancer journey. They coordinate appointments, interpret medical jargon, arrange transportation if needed and find resources for financial assistance.
"They help patients become well-informed and ask the right questions," George said. "Above all, they help decrease the patient's stress during the whirlwind of a cancer diagnosis."
When patients are done with their active treatment, they are referred to the survivorship program by their oncologist.
"We work as a team to design the patients' plan of care after treatment ends," she said. "Then they see me in the survivorship clinic for their follow-up appointments. I order the necessary tests to make sure their cancer is not recurring. The patients have really embraced the program. They get the extra time and attention at the end of treatment that they need to get back on their feet. During treatment, they come to the office frequently and get to know the staff well. When it's over, you think it should be a joyous occasion, but sometimes they really have a sense of abandonment. They think, 'What am I supposed to do now?' That's where the survivorship program comes in."
Once in the survivorship program, patients receive education about long-term side effects, screening for other cancers and their family's risk for cancer. Participants also have access to resources for nonmedical issues such as financial concerns, difficulties at work, relationship problems and any other adverse outcome of their disease or treatment.
In addition to providing follow-up care, the program also provides numerous patient activities, including ongoing fundraisers, craft classes, events such as the upcoming retreat and other celebrations for patients and their families.
Last September, George was the only nurse practitioner in West Virginia selected to attend a cancer survivorship training conference in New York. This October, she will participate in a survivorship update conference in Houston to learn the latest methods in survivorship care.
She also is a certified family nurse practitioner, meaning she can treat all ages in primary care, plus women's health.
For information on the cancer survivorship program, call (304) 243-6493.