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Watch the interview video HERE.

Journal of Clinical Pathways sat down with Amity Parker, BSN, RN, OCN, staff nurse at Tennessee Oncology, to discuss protective measures taken by patients and staff during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as challenges of connecting emotionally with patients while wearing N95 masks.

Here at Tennessee Oncology, we’ve taken a lot of protective measures – both for the patients and for ourselves as staff members. We are wearing masks; right now, we have N95 respirators that we are wearing daily. We also are wearing surgical masks in and out of the building just for comfort measures so that we can have a break from the N95 respirators.

We are washing our hands and cleaning things down, as we always do. We are used to working with neutropenic patients, so this is really nothing new. But, we are being just a little more cautious, using more supplies to take care of those areas that need to be wiped down more frequently.

Our patients are wearing masks as well. We are seeing patients coming in wearing N95 masks, cloth masks, surgical masks, bandanas, and whatever they can get their hands on. A lot of them are wearing gloves as well when they come in. So from a physical standpoint, they are protecting themselves as well.

From an emotional standpoint, these protective measures have really put some barriers between us for care. They can’t see our faces. They can’t see that we are smiling at them. We’re very in-tune with our patients’ emotions in oncology. We feed off of their little changes in expression. These are patients that we sometimes see weekly, and we can tell based on their expressions exactly how they’re feeling. We can’t do that right now. We’re spending a lot more time at the chairside, having a conversation with these patients, trying to figure out how they’re feeling – talking about anxiety, talking about their fears and uncertainty with the virus.