National Family Caregivers Month: The Nurse’s Perspective With Maria Badillo, MSN, RN, OCN®, CCRP

During National Family Caregivers Month this November, Oncology Data Advisor is spotlighting not only the caregivers of patients with cancer, but also the oncology nurses who partner with them to help navigate the cancer care journey. In this interview, Maria Badillo, Research Nurse Manager at MD Anderson Cancer Center and OncData Editorial Board member, shares how she helps support and provide education for her patients’ caregivers, as well as resources she recommends for guiding them through the experience. 

Oncology Data Advisor: Welcome to Oncology Data Advisor. Today, we’re excited to be having this interview in honor of National Family Caregivers Month. I’m joined by Maria Badillo, one of our Editorial Board members, who is here to talk more about this from the nursing perspective. Maria, thanks so much for coming on the show today.

Maria Badillo, MSN, RN, OCN®, CCRP: Thank you for inviting me, Keira.

Oncology Data Advisor: To start off, would you like to introduce yourself and share what you do in your work?

Ms. Badillo: Yes, I am a Research Nurse Manager at the MD Anderson Cancer Center. I work in clinical trials, but I also work with patients and, of course, their caregivers.

Oncology Data Advisor: Great. For background, what are some of the challenges that are faced by caregivers of patients with cancer?

Ms. Badillo: As we all know, caregivers play a huge part in the cancer journeys of our patients. They’re there from the time the patient is diagnosed, to when they’re receiving treatment, and hopefully until the patient is in remission. There are many challenges that our caregivers face while taking care of their family member or their friend. There can be emotional, physical, or financial concerns, or all of the above. Some caregivers have to leave their own jobs behind to care for their family. Those are some of the examples.

Oncology Data Advisor: In your role as a nurse, how do you personally interact with and help support your patients’ caregivers?

Ms. Badillo: I come from a family that has a cancer history, and I can really relate to the caregivers of our patients. For me, educating our caregivers is very important. They need to understand everything about the cancer and what to expect in order to decrease their own anxiety and stress. As I mentioned earlier, the fear of the unknown is very real for our caregivers. I try to educate them about the side effects of treatment and how to manage the side effects, especially for when they’re home with the patient, so they know how to cope with the problems. Also, I give them a space to vent out their feelings. Having them feel that they are not alone in the journey in taking care of their patient is a great support to them.

Oncology Data Advisor: I’m sure that’s a huge help for caregivers to have you, and nurses as a whole, supporting them and helping them to navigate the journey. You mentioned using education to help them navigate cancer care. What are some other ways that oncology nurses can help support their patients’ caregivers?

Ms. Badillo: Oncology nurses can help support their patients’ caregivers by referring them to different resources, such as social work or programs that can help them financially. For example, there are resources to help pay for insurance copays or even for transportation back and forth to the hospital where they get their treatment. There are also resources to help them emotionally. I mentioned earlier the education about the fear of the unknown and helping them with mental health or coping with the situation. There are also ways to address the physical concerns of our caregivers, such as resources out there that they can use to get free massages or even help for childcare.

Oncology Data Advisor: That’s great. I know you come to this from a unique standpoint, as well, as a Research Nurse Manager. Are there any additional considerations for supporting caregivers of patients who are enrolled in clinical trials?

Ms. Badillo: Yes. We make sure we are available, first of all, to answer all their questions pertaining to the clinical trial, whether it is about the informed consent, screening tests, treatments, or side effects. Again, going back to the education, this is very important to the caregivers. Most of the time, caregivers will request us to work on their timetable when we schedule their patient’s tests or treatments so that we can accommodate their own schedule. This is important to them, especially if they are the sole caregiver for the patient, if they’re working, or if they have kids at home or even have another family member that is sick. We try to negotiate to accommodate this for them. Also, as a Research Nurse Manager, I try to help out with travel reimbursement and try to get assistance for the caregiver with being reimbursed whenever they come over to be with their patient for treatments, tests, or any other reason that they need to be in the hospital.

Oncology Data Advisor: That’s great about the travel reimbursement. I’m sure that’s a huge help in the clinical trial process.

Ms. Badillo: Yes, that’s correct.

Oncology Data Advisor: Lastly, I know you mentioned some of the resources that you recommend for caregivers for navigating the experience. Do you have any other recommendations or any advice that you personally share with caregivers or that you recommend other nurses could share?

Ms. Badillo: Yes, there are different programs that are available for caregivers. One example is the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. On their website, they have support groups. They have a caregiver workbook. They have education about different types of cancer, and much more. I know from speaking to my patients’ caregivers that they have support groups on different social media platforms, such as Facebook or even Twitter. I also recommend them to check out the American Cancer Society website, because they have resources for online communities and information on caregiving.

Oncology Data Advisor: Awesome. Anything else you’d like to mention today for National Family Caregivers Month?

Ms. Badillo: I would like to salute all the caregivers out there. I personally work with so many caregivers with my patients, and I truly admire how they take care of their patients. I also encourage them to prioritize themselves as well, so that they can better help their patients.

Oncology Data Advisor: I’ll echo you in saluting the caregivers out there; they’re really such a huge part of the cancer journey. And I’ll also thank you for your role as a nurse in supporting caregivers. It’s such a critical part of the process and something that couldn’t be done without.

Ms. Badillo: Thank you so much.

Oncology Data Advisor: Well, thanks so much for coming on the show today to share all this. It was great talking with you.

Ms. Badillo: All right, thank you.

About Ms. Badillo

Maria Badillo, MSN, RN, OCN®, CCRP, is the Research Nurse Manager in the Mantle Cell Lymphoma/Myeloma Department at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. As a clinical trial manager, she develops research strategies and programs, manages protocol design and implementation, and coordinates patient participation in phase 1, 2, and 3 clinical trials. Ms. Badillo has been a speaker at several conferences, including the Oncology Nursing Society Congress and the Academy of Oncology Nurse and Patient Navigators Conference. Her research focuses on the development of novel therapeutics for patients with hematologic malignancies and the management of adverse events to optimize treatment outcomes.

For More Information

Caregiver Action Network (2023). National Family Caregivers Month. Available at: https://www.caregiveraction.org/national-family-caregivers-month

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (2023). Caregiver support. Available at: https://www.lls.org/support-resources/caregiver-support

American Cancer Society (2023). Caregiving and family. Available at: https://www.cancer.org/cancer/caregivers.html

Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Oncology Data Advisor.


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