Elevating Patient Care: The Dynamic Role of Non-Physician Practitioners in Radiation Oncology

This text is based on the article Non-physician practitioners in radiation oncology: advanced practice nurses and physician assistants, Originally published in PubMed on 1 September 1999

Adapting to funding changes in healthcare is crucial for maintaining top-notch radiation oncology. This means exploring new ways to improve patient care by bringing in non-physician practitioners, including advanced practice nurses (APNs) and physician assistants (PAs).

When thinking about these non-physician roles, it is important to consider what these roles involve, how to implement these roles, what education is needed, deciding who can prescribe treatments, applicable rules and regulations, the handling of payments, and understanding how this change might affect the training of medical residents. It's important to note that non-physician practitioners aren't meant to replace medical residents or radiation oncologists. Instead, they work alongside them, helping with tasks such as patient assessments, symptom management, patient education, and supporting patients and their families. This support allows doctors to focus more on the technical parts of planning radiotherapy treatments.

By welcoming non-physician practitioners into radiation oncology, the cancer community can benefit greatly. The teamwork between advanced practice nurses (APNs), physician assistants (PAs), and doctors creates a supportive environment for patients. This collaborative care  makes the best use of available resources and enhances patient care.

Moreover, adding non-physician practitioners to the team creates opportunities for everyone to learn from each other. This shared learning can lead to a better overall understanding of patient care and different treatment approaches.

By considering these aspects, the radiation oncology community can improve its ability to provide effective and compassionate care, adjusting to changes in healthcare and making the most out of the resources available.

This text is part of the European Cancer Organisation (ECO) repository of best practices and innovations to address the cancer workforce crisis in Europe. You can find more examples of best practices here.