A hematology nurse works with patients who have diseases or disorders involving their blood. The nurses work with hematologists or oncologists. Most hematology patients are very ill with diseases such as leukemia, sickle cell anemia, thrombocytopenia, hemophilia and other life-threatening diseases. The nurse needs to have empathy and compassion in order to ease the fears of patients and their families. Some specific duties include the following.
• Hematology nurses are charged with taking a detailed comprehensive medical history at the patient’s initial visit to the doctor. Nothing can be overlooked, even incidents that may seem minor to the patient. The nurse needs to ask probative questions in order to elicit information from the patient that might not think of to provide voluntarily.
• Nurses keep the medical history updated for each medical visit. They need to ask questions about what has happened since the last visit and record all relevant information. For example, unexplained bruises may indicate an exacerbation of many hematology conditions. Symptoms such as fatigue, nausea or headaches may be extremely important. Nurses must be knowledgeable about what needs to be noted on the patient charts and be certain nothing is overlooked.
• All test results since the last visit must be accurately recorded. In many hematology patients, treatment depends on comparing test results from one visit to the next. If blood levels have changed, the treatment will change. The doctor needs to have this information in an easily identifiable way in order to accurately prescribe treatment.
• A primary duty of hematology nurses is to educate the patients and their families about the specific medical condition. This includes all precautions that the patients may need to take in order to properly treat the disease and to prevent, as far as possible, in any complications. For example, patients with thrombocytopenia with a low platelet count may need to avoid using knives in the kitchen until the platelet level increases to a certain level. The nurse instructs patients on signs and symptoms to watch for that may indicate a change in their condition and a need to call the doctor.
•The hematology nurse assists or performs blood and platelet transfusions. This involves starting the IV injection of the blood or platelets and monitoring the condition of the patient during the transfusion. The nurse needs to be aware if the patient experiences any pain at the IV site or any systemic reactions such as a sudden headache or flushing of the skin. Any adverse reaction to the transfusion must be immediately recognized and treated.
• Advanced practice hematology nurses may conduct examinations, order tests and prescribe medications.
• Hematology nurses must be educated on the signs and symptoms of blood diseases and disorders in order to provide adequate triage for patients who contact them with questions. The nurses need to be able to properly assess whether the patient needs to be directed to an emergency room, asked to come in immediately to see the doctor, or make an appointment for them as soon as possible. In some types of cases, hematology nurses may be able to adjust medication levels based on information provided to them by the patients.