News from Illinois CancerCare

Why Do I See An APN Instead of My Doctor?

When you’re a patient at Illinois CancerCare (ILCC), you and your family will meet a variety of ILCC staff, each of whom plays a critical role in your treatment. We have created a knowledgeable multidisciplinary team that is committed to offering every patient well-rounded and attentive care. One of those individuals is an Advanced Practice Nurse, commonly referred to as an APN. Let’s take a look at the job and mission of these highly-valuable team members.

The Role of An APN

While APNs aren’t a replacement for doctors, they are highly-educated and trained to work closely with your physician to develop and deliver the optimum treatment plan for your needs. Serving as your advocate and a knowledgeable care provider, studies show that patients are generally extremely satisfied with the relationship they have with their APN.

In many cases, an APN can spend a significant amount of time with you and may be able to respond to inquiries sooner than a doctor can. Of course, that depends on where you’re at in your treatment, the nature of your questions and even the type of cancer you have.

Although male patients probably haven’t had as much experience with an APN, women may be more accustomed to this collaborative model of care with their OB/Gynecologist. A physician/APN care model is also fairly common in pediatrics, giving both men and women some exposure to this approach. Let’s take a look at some of the specific care an APN provides.

Services Provided by APNs

APNs combine their skills as compassionate and skilled nurses with an advanced education that enables them to provide an additional layer of care. They don’t replace your doctor—they work with your doctor.

Depending on your APN’s specific qualifications, he or she may provide services that are a hybrid of what a nurse and physician typically deliver, including:

  • Taking your medical history
  • Performing exams
  • Ordering and reviewing lab work
  • Ordering and evaluating diagnostic tests
  • Prescribing medications and other treatments
  • Treating and monitoring your health during the treatment process
  • Answering questions you and your family may have
  • Providing education and disease counseling
  • Serving as a liaison with other healthcare providers (your doctor, nurses, medical technicians, pharmacists, hospital personnel and others involved in your treatment)
  • Addressing cancer prevention and screening
  • Discussing personal issues related to treatment and recovery
  • Discussing advanced care planning
  • Performing bone marrow biopsies
  • APN Standards and Training

You may be wondering about an APN’s training, expertise and qualifications. Good question!

An Advanced Practice Nurse is a registered nurse who also holds a master’s or doctorate degree in nursing. They have also completed clinical requirements to ensure that they have the academic and hands-on ability to deliver a superior level of patient care. APNs (like other medical providers) are board-certified and required to be licensed by the state in which they live.

In addition to more than 24 APNs who treat Illinois CancerCare patients, our team also includes 50 skilled and specialized nurses, with 40% of them being Oncology Certified Nurses (OCNs).

The Benefits of APN Integration

So, why do we incorporate APNs into your cancer treatment plan? Here are just a few reasons:

  • The U.S. population is aging and living longer, which means that more patients are being diagnosed with cancer. Since the Baby Boomers are a large population, this puts further stress on the healthcare delivery system.
  • Because APNs can provide a large number of services that physicians deliver, patients are able to be seen more frequently (or sooner), rather than facing a bottleneck that slows down patient access to care.
  • In addition to treating patients, physicians—especially those at Illinois CancerCare—spend time researching diseases and testing potential treatment options. Allowing them to have more time to conduct clinical trials can lead to more successful treatments for today’s patients, as well as future generations.

The bottom line is this: At Illinois CancerCare, we want to prevent, diagnose and treat as many patients as possible so we can eliminate or greatly reduce cancer deaths. We believe—and studies show—that incorporating skilled, knowledgeable and compassionate APNs into cancer treatment provides superior results. And that’s exactly what we’re doing!