BY ERIN NOEL, RN, OCN
Prior to 2015, the last Oncology Nursing Society Congress I was able to attend was in 2002. To say the least, Congress has grown tremendously, offering many learning opportunities for both the new and the experienced oncology nurse. If I could have cloned myself, I would have attended every session I could at this year’s meeting in Orlando. But, from the sessions I was able to attend, here are some highlights.
Opening Ceremony Keynote Address: Transforming our Future
With speaker, Kevin Sowers, RN, MSN, Director, President, and CEO of Duke University Hospital
“Respecting the Past and Visioning the Future.” This statement resonated with me as a 22-year oncology nurse veteran. There are so many things we have learned as oncology nursing has evolved—from safe handling (or lack thereof of in our past) to the first ONS cancer chemotherapy guidelines published in 1986 to new roles with nurse navigation to the use of social media in health care.
Oncology nursing has come a long way from 1975 to 2015, and it will continue to transform over the next 40 years and beyond.
ONCC Recognition Breakfast for Oncology Certified Nurses
With speaker Karren Kowalski, PhD, RN, NEA-BC, FAAN, President and CEO of the Colorado Center for Nursing Excellence,
Kowalski was absolutely AMAZING! I was mesmerized. Her wise (and candid) words during her talk at the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation Breakfast for Oncology Certified Nurses both filled the room with laughter and inspired moments of deep thought.
She taught us a new word: “psychosclerosis”—which, according to Kowalski, can be defined as the hardening of the attitude. She drew out more than a few laughs when she used the term to identify some of the nurses we come across in our profession, reminding those of us who do run into this type of nurse (certainly not me—wink, wink), keep smiling and spread your cheer, love, passion, and inspiration for the nursing profession. You never know just how infectious a positive attitude is for new and experienced nurses.
Kowalski shared anecdotes from when she served as a labor and delivery nurse, as well as from her days as an Army nurse. She encouraged the nurses in the room to create a vision. In this vision, “know your purpose, it should be clear and well-defined, as well as positive and inspiring.” The advice applies to both novice and expert nurses. A lot of factors make it easy for nurses to burn out on their roles, but creating a vision and focusing on this vision, is a way to help reduce and avoid compassion fatigue and burn out.
She completely rocked the house.
Psychosocial Challenges for the Young Adult with Cancer—How Can We Help?
With speaker Anne Katz, RN, PhD, Clinical Nurse Specialist at Cancer Care Manitoba, Editor of the Oncology Nursing Forum, and author
Katz’s presentation was eye opening. She urged nurses to take the lead to address sexuality and fertility with our patients. For so many years, sexuality—for both young adult patients with cancer, as well as older adult patients with cancer—was a difficult conversation to approach. It is a sensitive subject for most patients. And personally, I have found physicians and nurses tend to skip over the topic, too, or barely mention it at all, including issues like preventing pregnancy during treatment and fertility preservation.
But Katz really honed in on why it is so important to talk about sexuality during cancer treatment, as well as know what the overall emotional stages of the young adult are. And beyond sexuality, she challenged the nurses listening to think about: are we really meeting the needs of young adults with cancer? Are we truly helping balancing cancer treatment, family, work, and paying bills?
There are so many emotional needs that go unfulfilled that we do have resources for. How can we help this population of cancer patients? Katz suggested continuous contact with the oncology team, developing a survivorship care plan, assisting our patients’ reintegration into the community, supportive care, peer support, and surveillance of late affects, to name a few. We need to make the patient aware of the resources available and counsel them throughout the full course of their cancer treatment and beyond.
I truly respect Katz’s ability to speak about sexuality and the care of the young adult with cancer. I encourage oncology nurses everywhere not to be shy about talking about these particular needs for these patients and developing a plan of care in your current practice for these patients. They need to know the facts and what options they have.
Social Media Mini Workshop,
Led by Carol Bush, BS, RN, Nurse Consultant at Midwest Cancer Alliance; Suzanne M. Mahon, RN, DNSc, AOCN, APNG, Professor at Saint Louis University and Head of the Hereditary Cancer Program at the Cancer Center there; and Joni Watson, MSN, MBA, RN, OCN, Director of the Baylor Scott and White McClinton Cancer Center in Waco, Texas
This social media session was a great interactive session that taught me about online platforms, and introduced me to nurses using them. I learned about appropriate social media tools to develop nurse-nurse relationships, as well as nurse-patient relationships. Whether it’s professional or personal, when creating a social media account, it is important to be mindful of these relationships and be mindful to establish a clear definition between professional and personal relationships.
Confession: I had a Twitter account before attending this session, but I never even understood how to use it until attending Congress this year. I even became a “Top Ten Tweeter” at the meeting! Though I’m probably no longer a “Top Ten Tweeter” after leaving Orlando, I still connect and Tweet on a regular basis. Twitter opened up so many opportunities to meet other oncology nurses around the world, to connect and to share information that can help us all grow personally and professionally.
If you don’t have a professional social media account—being mindful of your company’s social media policies—I encourage you to create one and start connecting with other professionals.
Self-Care of the Oncology Nurse
With speaker Mary Lehett, RN, BSN, OCN, a retired oncology staff nurse
Self-care of the oncology nurse is a topic near and dear to my heart. In my 23 years in the field, I have seen new nurses get burned out in just a few short years, and I have seen compassion fatigue at all stages of their career. I am currently in the process of developing a program to further identify and acknowledge nurses in our system who can benefit from additional self-care resources to avoid these averse outcomes.
Nurses are so busy taking care of others, we too often fail to remember our own health. But to be able to take care of others, it needs to first start with taking care of our own body and mind. In her presentation, Lehett showed that mindfulness-based stress reduction programs have been shown to help reduce stress and burnout. Programs such as guided meditation, inner source meditation, yoga, and Reiki, have also been found to be beneficial.
But, how to find the time to incorporate stress-reduction training—whether it be Reiki or any other modality—into your routine? Time is a limitation only if you make it one. Lehett shared this helpful reminder to stop and breathe (and take time for yourself!)—a quote from Thich Nhat Hanh:
“Breath is the bridge which connects life to consciousness, which unites your body to your thoughts. Whenever your mind becomes scattered, use your breath as the means to take hold of your mind again.”
This session reminded me about the importance of taking charge and caring for my own self; energize and empower yourself to be revitalized so that you can better care for others.
ERIN NOEL RN, OCN, is the Team Leader in the Infusion Room at Baylor Scott & White McClinton Cancer Center-Hillcrest in Waco, Texas. She has been an oncology nurse for 23 years, and is currently pursuing the RN-BSN program through Texas A&M University—Central Texas with plans to pursue a program for MSN in fall, 2016. She is a current member of the Heart of Texas ONS Chapter.