Applying the Synergy Model to inform the nursing model of care in an inpatient and an ambulatory care setting: The experience of two urban cancer institutions, Hamilton Health Sciences and Grand River Regional Cancer Centre

Charissa Cordon, Jennifer Lounsbury, Delia Palmer, Cheryl Shoemaker


The incidence and prevalence of cancer continues to rise throughout Canada. Approximately one in two Canadians are expected to develop cancer at some point in their lives (Canadian Cancer Society, 2021). As the complexity and acuity of individuals with cancer increases, there is increased necessity to define the ideal nurse-to-patient ratio and patient caseload for nurses in specialized oncology settings. Two senior nurse leaders, faced with the need to determine the most appropriate model to inform the nursing model of care within their respective care areas, collaborated and decided to implement the Synergy Model.

The Synergy Model is a professional practice model developed by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). In the Synergy Model, nursing care reflects the integration of nurses’ knowledge, skills, attitudes, competencies, and experience to meet the needs of patients and families (Curley, 2007). This model provides a framework for matching nursing resources based on patient care needs and has been adapted in various care settings. The model, however, has not been applied in a surgical oncology inpatient unit or in an oncology ambulatory care setting. Using a quality improvement methodology, the Synergy Model was piloted in these new areas and found to be effective. The Synergy Model can be utilized to determine the need for additional nursing resources with specialized oncology nurses and appropriate skill mix of intraprofessional nursing teams. It can also be used to assess adult oncology patients who present to the ambulatory systemic care suite for unscheduled care related to symptomatic concerns.

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