Susan Newton, ‘a Woman With a Cause,’ Receives FIRE Project Excellence Award

August 1, 2001

SAN DIEGO-Susan A. Newton, RN, MS, AOCN, is an independent consultant based in Dayton, Ohio, who travels throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky teaching patients and colleagues, regionally and nationally, about cancer-related fatigue and pain management.

SAN DIEGO—Susan A. Newton, RN, MS, AOCN, is an independent consultant based in Dayton, Ohio, who travels throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky teaching patients and colleagues, regionally and nationally, about cancer-related fatigue and pain management.

She gives full-day preceptorships to nurses, conducts workshops in hospitals and clinics, chairs task forces, heads an Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) chapter, and writes and reviews articles. In April, 2001, she co-authored an article on cancer-related fatigue in a supplement (Oncology Nursing Update) to the American Journal of Nursing (Newton S, Smith LD: Am J Nursing 101:31, 2001).

At the Oncology Nursing Society’s 26th Annual Congress in San Diego, Ms. Newton received the Fatigue Initiative Through Research and Education (FIRE) Excellence Award co-sponsored by ONS and Ortho Biotech Products, LP.

The award honors an oncology nurse who has made outstanding contributions to cancer-related fatigue, clinical practice, education, or research.

Ms. Newton’s educational programs have changed "standing orders, algorithms, standardized teaching plans, and patient classes," said Bill Pearson, Ortho Biotech vice president, Strategic Customer Group. Pearl Moore, RN, MN, FAAN, chief executive officer of ONS, called her "a woman with a cause."

In an interview, Ms. Newton told ONI, "One of the things I’m most proud of as a nurse is the huge impact nurses can have on the lives of patients with fatigue, because fatigue is a manageable symptom."

Nurses can help these patients enormously just by educating them about energy conservation principles (prioritizing and delegating tasks) or checking for anemia "because that’s something we can fix," she said. "These are things that can really make a difference to patients. After I do these programs, patients over and over come back and say, wow, that really helped."

In the American Journal of Nursing article, Ms. Newton provided a case history of a 42-year-old stage II breast cancer patient. She had made it through her first two cycles of chemotherapy without significant side effects but, for her third round, appeared to lack energy, was withdrawn, and rated her fatigue as 8 on a 10-point scale. The patient reported poor sleep, and her hemoglobin and hematocrit levels were low.

The patient was helped to prioritize activities, a referral was made to a psychologist, and her oncologist started her on subcutaneous recombinant human erythropoietin (epoetin alfa, Procrit®, Eprex®, Erypo®) injections. A few months later she was feeling well, Ms. Newton said.

It was in 1995, Ms. Newton said, that she took the first course on cancer-related fatigue ever offered through the FIRE project, one of the very few available on the subject.

The Fatigue Initiative Through Research and Education began in 1994 when the Oncology Nursing Society and Ortho Biotech entered into a partnership to follow up on concerns expressed by ONS members. In an ONS Research Priorities Survey, members listed cancer-related fatigue as a major problem.

The partnership made it possible for ONS and the ONS Foundation to sponsor research grants (see article on page 7 for a report of Dr. Victoria Mock’s fatigue research), professional education courses, public education planning grants, and excellence awards such as the one Ms. Newton received, all in the area of fatigue management.

Avoiding the ‘E’ Word

Last April, Ms. Newton spent a Sunday afternoon sitting in a booth at the Bruckner Nature Center in Troy, Ohio. giving information about the management of cancer fatigue to patients taking part in a "restorative walk." The walk was sponsored by the Miami Valley Fatigue Coalition, a group of oncology nurses formed in 1999 to help patients combat cancer-related fatigue.

At that event, Ms. Newton told a reporter from the Dayton Daily News that she was going to encourage people to do exercise but would try to avoid the "E" word. She stressed that just walking around the block to get the mail or even around the living room could constitute exercise for some people.

She dispensed many more tips that day, like keeping things at waist level to avoid bending down or wearing a terrycloth robe after a shower so as not to have to dry off. And she mentioned the importance of correcting anemia if that is part of the problem.

Ms. Newton told ONI that cancer patients may not be full of energy, "but they are managing their lives much better than they were without these patient education techniques, and I think there are more improvements coming."