24/7 Cancer Care Clinic Launches

Jason Merrill
June 4, 2009 – To provide around-the-clock service for cancer patients in need of urgent care, the Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine has launched the 24/7 Cancer Care Clinic.

The facility’s goal is to offer quick treatment to Siteman patients suffering from nonacute issues like nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and low blood counts in a nonemergency-room setting.

“We’re trying to keep the oncology population out of the emergency department because it’s a dangerous place for them with their symptoms,” says registered nurse Amy Determann, manager of the 24/7 Cancer Care Clinic.

For instance, cancer patients with lowered immune systems may wait in emergency-room lobbies near patients with infectious diseases such as the flu.

“The less exposure a patient can have to viruses, bacteria and other issues the better because they can’t fight them off,” says Determann. “Something that a person can normally fight off without an issue can really cause problems if you have a weakened immune system.”

Also, given the complex nature of many cancer regimens and clinical trials, some emergency-room staffer members may be treating patients who are taking medications they’re unfamiliar with.

The clinic is comprised of seven infusion chairs, three private treatment rooms and one negative-pressure room. Siteman’s bone-marrow transplant weekend clinic also has relocated to the 24/7 clinic.

Determann says patients should access the clinic by calling their oncologist or their nurse coordinator and stresses the clinic is only available for Siteman patients.

She adds the clinic is not a general emergency room but rather for Siteman patients with symptoms related to cancer. She says those with acute problems like heart attack or stroke need to visit an emergency room.

Overall, Determann says the 24/7 Cancer Care Clinic – one of only a handful in the country – could be the future of treatment.

“My opinion is this is the way it’s going to go for oncology patients,” says Determann. “It’s really thinking outside the box to treat our patients.”