Be Prepared

Kane and LauriaAs published in The Cancer Institute of New Jersey's newsletter Oncolyte, Winter 2013 edition

In the aftermath of the chaos created by ‘Superstorm’ Sandy this past fall, it is good to be reminded of the concept of preparedness  Although hurricanes, blizzards and other severe weather may be rare to our Northeast Corridor, being prepared in the face of such events is all of our responsibility.   If you are under a doctor’s care for cancer or other chronic illness, you may want to give extra focus to making a plan and assembling an emergency preparedness kit.

Agencies and emergency preparedness organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Red Cross and New Jersey Office of Emergency Management have terrific resources available that can help you map out a preparedness plan. 

Almost every preparedness list will contain items such as water, food, flashlights, batteries, extra cash and family contact information, but don’t forget about any healthcare needs. Along with a first-aid kit, pay special attention to personal medications and copies of health-related documents. 

When possible and with sufficient lead time, a seven-day supply of essential medications would be an ideal minimum.  Many medications cannot be suddenly stopped without serious side-effects.  Additionally, many of the medications prescribed to treat cancer, for instance, are intended to be taken on a specific schedule.  Often various supportive medications are prescribed to help manage treatment side effects and going just a few days without could be uncomfortable and unsafe.

If you need to access the healthcare system during an emergency, having the correct, up to date information is helpful.  At the conclusion of each contact point in your care (primary doctor, emergency room visit, or a visit to The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, for instance), you should receive a visit summary which should include your plan of care and current medication list.  Bringing this list and your current medications with you can assist the next medical contact in understanding the most recent events in your care.

Be certain to update your personal information frequently to include:

  • Changes in your medical condition
  • Past surgeries and hospitalizations
  • Current medications, allergies or adverse side-effects
  • Names and contact information of doctors and pharmacies
  • Recent laboratory results
  • Insurance information including copies of your cards (front and back)

There are many creative ways to store this information including waterproof zipper bags and laminating for physical material and flash drives for back-up copies stored in computer files.

Lastly, if you need to contact your physician during a state of emergency and cannot reach them through normal phone/e-mail methods, calling the hospital to which they admit patients may be helpful to locate them. 

Remember, never give in to the complacency that an emergency event will never happen; be prepared!

For additional information, visit:

Michael P. Kane, RPh, BCOP, is the director of Oncology Pharmacy Services at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey. 
Jacquelyn Lauria, RN, MS, APN-C, AOCNP, is an advanced practice nurse at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey. 
Both were on the front lines of managing patient care and medications during and after ‘Superstorm’ Sandy. 

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