As a cancer patient, your physician may have prescribed infusion treatment, meaning a visit to the infusion center is in your near future. We spoke with Julia Lewis, RN, BSN, OCN, an infusion center nurse, about some tips that the nursing staff wants you to know. Here is her advice.
- Wear loose comfortable clothing, because you’re going to be at the infusion center for awhile. Wear either a V-neck or button down shirt, or a shirt you don’t mind the neck being stretched down a bit to access to the port. Turtlenecks are a big hassle for both the patient and the staff and you’ll usually have to undress, so even on the coldest days – leave the turtlenecks at home. In addition, men may want to consider shaving the chest hair around the port site to make tape removal less painful.
- On the day of your infusion center visit, don’t put heavy lotion on the area over the port site, it makes the nursing staff have to scrub harder and the opsite more difficult to stick to the skin.
- We have some folks who still experience a lot of pain each time their port is accessed, but those are rare. When the port is first placed, just know it’s still tender and swollen, but it will get better. If you’re afraid of the pain when the port is accessed, there is a cream called Emla that can be put over the port itself on the skin. Put a little dab on the port site and cover with plastic and wait about an hour. It is a prescription only, so you’ll have to ask your physician to write a prescription, and you should know that it’s expensive, but an option if pain is an issue for you. Another more cost effective option is to ask the infusion center if they have a product called Pain-Ease spray, which is a cold spray that the nurse uses to numb the site and then place the stick. If the infusion center has this, it will save patients a lot of cost.
- Depending on the treatment, give yourself 2-3 hours for your visit. Bring your favorite book, or electronic device. Some infusion centers have magazines and books; some have a television at each center, but not all. Most infusion centers will offer snacks and drinks, but not cafeteria service. However, you can feel free to bring your own snacks or food– just be mindful of particularly smelly foods that can affect those suffering already from nausea.
- While on the topic of medical etiquette, there are a few things your nursing staff would like you to know. We don’t always get to say this to the patients who visit our center, but here are a few things to keep in mind. First, it’s OK to have your cell phone if you need to make a quick call or need to let someone know where you are, but don’t use your infusion center time to catch up with every family member or friend you have – while on speaker phone. Be quiet, discrete and considerate of others. Also strong perfumes – cancer patients are sensitive to strong smells, and sometimes the perfume affects the nurses as well. Leave the perfume and cologne behind on infusion center day.
Finally, we want you to know that we do care about you. We become attached to our patients, and I have several that are very close to my heart. We celebrate their improving health, and mourn like family when their health takes a turn for the worse. We are there for you through this journey, cheering you on each step of the way.