The following article is part of The Clinical Advisor’s coverage from the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners’ 39th National Conference on Pediatric Health Care in Chicago. Our staff will be reporting live on the latest news and clinically relevant practice information from leading pediatric NPs in many specialty areas. Check back for ongoing updates from NAPNAP 2018. 

CHICAGO—Implementing mental health services early on in pediatric oncology patients has significant benefits, as managing such distress before symptom severity worsens creates better short- and long-term outcomes, according to research presented at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners’ 39th National Conference on Pediatric Health Care.

Kaelee Stuchlik-Steffensmeier, BSN, RN, CPN, and Meghan Potthoff, PhD, APRN-NP, CPNP-AC, sought to implement a routine depression screening process with in-patient pediatric oncology patients and to develop a referral process for behavioral health services. Eight patients (aged 11 to 19) were screened with the Patient Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9) from September 1, 2017, to November 30, 2017.

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The patients were screened within 24 hours from the time of admission. The screening was completed on paper and then entered into the electronic medical records by an APRN.

Two patients had a high-risk score. Both patients had a previously established relationship with the Behavioral Health team and received a consult to the team for ongoing care of their mental healthcare needs. Two questions from the survey, which assessed for sleep issues and lack of energy, had the highest scores. Sleeping difficulties and decreased energy are common side effects from pediatric oncology treatment, noted the study authors.

The researchers found that implementing the PHQ-9 within 24 hours from the time of admission is feasible and did not disrupt the APRN’s daily clinical practice and that the results could be easily entered in the institution’s electronic medical records.

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“An increased collaboration between the Hematology/Oncology and the Behavioral Health teams is essential for an overall positive outcome, especially due to the fact that chronic health conditions increase the risk of depression among adolescent oncology patients,” the authors stated. “Holistic, interdisciplinary care is ideal when caring for the pediatric oncology population in order to thoroughly address the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of this unique patient population.”

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Stuchlik-Steffensmeier K, Potthoff M. Routine administration of a standardized depression screening tool in the adolescent oncology patient. Presented at the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners 2018 National Conference; March 19-22, 2018; Chicago.