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Getting Real: Nursing Today

A Clinical Nurse Specialist Describes Her Role

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Deborah Wright, MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC, is always ready to learn something new. After working in gynecology oncology in a clinical and research setting, she decided she wanted to become an advanced practice registered nurse so she could broaden her scope of practice, maximize her ability to impact patients and increase her research opportunities.

Deborah Wright, MSN, APRN, ACNS-BC, is always ready to learn something new. After working in gynecology oncology in a clinical and research setting, she decided she wanted to become an advanced practice registered nurse so she could broaden her scope of practice, maximize her ability to impact patients and increase her research opportunities. Deborah now serves as an oncology clinical nurse specialist in the Phase I unit at the Stephenson Cancer Center at the University of Oklahoma, in Oklahoma City. Read on to learn more about her role as a clinical nurse specialist.

NN
What is it like being a clinical nurse specialist (CNS)? Is it different from what you imagined?
Deb

Being a CNS allows me to practice beyond the “provider role,” which is the main reason I chose to become a CNS over becoming a nurse practitioner. While I see patients in our clinic and infusion center as an oncology provider, I also spend a big part of my day mentoring and helping our infusion nurse team and our clinical research nurses to solve patient care problems. We work to develop interventions or plans of care within the confines of a complicated research protocol. Additionally, I work with the entire Phase I department in an administrative capacity to develop processes that improve the delivery of patient care that in turn produces good quality research.

NN
What is a typical day in the life of a clinical nurse specialist?
Deb

My day usually starts in the clinic. I see patients with any solid or hematologic cancer who are treating on a Phase I trial, including patients with brain tumors, colon cancer, ovarian cancers, even rare and unknown primary cancers. We start early to collect same-day safety labs, pharmacokinetics, safety monitoring, etc.

When I am finished with clinic, I round through infusion to check on patients who might have a question or need to discuss a lab value or an imaging result. I am a sub-investigator for our studies, so I sign a lot of paperwork, review eligibility criteria and review all follow-up CT Scans or MRIs. As part of my work, I also collaborate with the oncologists and radiologists to ensure we are performing accurate tumor response assessments.

NN
What is one thing that you learned early in your career that has affected you as a nurse?
Deb

Never hesitate to collaborate or ask for help or guidance when you are stuck and cannot critically think through a problem or an issue. Knowledge is gained through humility not pride.

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