How to Educate the New Oncology Advanced Practice Registered Nurse

Educating New Oncology Advanced Practice Nurses

Copyright Elvis Kennedy.

By Heather Brom, MS, RN, CNP

I was about as green as could be when I accepted my first oncology nurse practitioner position caring for BMT patients across the inpatient and outpatient settings. To say I was a deer in the headlights was an understatement!  I had joined a wonderful and dynamic team who was attempting to keep up with the growth of their program while balancing the learning needs of the four nurse practitioners they had hired in a six-month span.

There were so many acronyms and abbreviations that at times they felt like a foreign language. I also was attempting to make sense of what I learned in nursing school, which was focused on primary care, while integrating that knowledge within the acute and specialized setting in which I was practicing.

The first 18 months were overwhelming. I often found myself doubting my career choice, but my passion for caring for patients with cancer kept me going. Finally, about two years in, I found my stride.

As I moved on to other roles in our organization, I saw a trend. Our hospital’s growth was tremendous, and the need for providers was substantial. To meet this demand, we often hired novice nurse practitioners and/or those with no oncology experience. Many of these new oncology nurse practitioners struggled just like I did in their first few years. We felt there was more we could do as an organization to support their development.

Our story is not unique, as many cancer programs struggle with the best way to “onboard” and educate their advanced practice staff. That’s why Margaret Rosenzeweig, Stephanie Schulte and I will be presenting Preparing for Practice: Educating the New Oncology Advanced Practice Registered Nurse on Friday, May 2 at Congress.

Join us to learn about different options for effectively educating your new oncology advanced practice registered nurses.  We’ll share our experiences with a university-based cancer program and fellowship. We’ll also share unique ways to engage other resources, such as librarians, to develop your staff’s knowledge and confidence.

Career Moves in Oncology Nursing: What Comes Next?

Oncology Nursing Career Moves

Written by Colleen O’Leary, MSN, RN, AOCNS®

I am convinced that if oncology nurses were more familiar with the vast array of opportunities for those with advanced degrees, we would have a glut of nurses with advanced knowledge and expertise. I’ve had many conversations with nurses who say they want to continue their education, but who simply don’t know all of the options available to them.

Often I hear that they are familiar with the nurse practitioner role. They see nurse practitioners in the hospital, in their doctor’s office, and even at now-popular walk-in clinics. But how many know about the other oncology advanced practice nursing roles? Do you know what a clinical nurse specialist (CNS) does? How about a clinical nurse manager (CNM), certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), clinical nurse leader (CNL), or clinical nurse educator (CNE)? Beyond that, you can explore a multitude of educational credentials, including the PhD and the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).

I will be presenting Digesting the Alphabet Soup of Nursing: Choosing Your Career Path on Sunday, May 4, at Congress. Join me to learn what an oncology nursing career trajectory looks like, understand how to start planning for what comes next, and get answers to the following questions.

  • What’s the difference between an oncology advanced practice nurse and other advanced nursing roles?
  • How do I get onto a management track?
  • What path do I take if oncology nursing education or research is my forte?
  • What roles are common throughout each oncology nursing title and what is unique?
  • What does an oncology nursing job look like for each title—or what can I make it look like?

No one starts out with all the answers. Nursing was my second career, and I was a bedside oncology nurse for many years. As life changed, I moved to another city and eventually into a position that was part staff education, part bedside nursing. I thought that’s what I’d do for the rest of my nursing career. I had no desire to go to graduate school, didn’t want to be a nurse practitioner, and wasn’t going to take the GRE exam, for sure.

But as I progressed in my career, I was mentored by some excellent advanced practice nurses, who taught me that there were so many opportunities for oncology advanced practice nurses than I ever knew about. With their inspiration and encouragement, I returned to school and became an oncology CNS. What a great move! I’m now supporting patients and families throughout their disease journey, encouraging our nurses’ professional development, and working within my system to ensure that we are doing the best for our patients based on the strongest evidence available.

Let me help you figure out your next move during Choosing Your Career Path at Congress. There’s a whole world of opportunity for you!

Learn How to Manage Premature Ovarian Failure

Written by Joanne Kelvin, RN, MSN, AOCN®

premature ovarian failure

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk via photopin cc

Does this scenario sound familiar?

Susan is a 35-year old survivor of non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, treated with rituximab, ifosfamide, carboplatin, and etoposide. During your assessment at her five-year follow up visit, she tearfully reports that she and her husband have been unsuccessful in trying to get pregnant for the past year. They recently had a consultation with a reproductive endocrinologist, and she has learned that she is infertile because of premature ovarian failure.

Does this patient’s experience raise any of the following questions for you?

  • Did you consider her to be at risk for premature ovarian failure because of her prior treatment?
  • Is there something you could have offered before treatment to increase the likelihood of her being able to have a biologic child after treatment?
  • Is there something you could have done to better assess her for this risk during her previous follow-up visits?
  • What can you do now to minimize the health implications of ovarian failure for this young woman and to help her adjust to this new reality?

Though premature ovarian failure is a devastating diagnosis, there is much you can do as an oncology nurse to minimize its associated health consequences. On Saturday, May 3, from 10:15 to 11:45 AM, Elaine Pottenger and I are presenting Premature Ovarian Failure: Etiology, Impact, and Management. We hope you will join us to lean how to better anticipate who is at risk, assess for associated signs and symptoms, and intervene early to effectively manage the care of young female cancer survivors.

Get Your PICO On During an Evidence-Based Practice Session

Written by Michele E. Gaguski, MSN, RN, AOCN®, CHPN, APN-C, Amy Deutsch, DNP, RN, AOCNS®, and Marisol Hernandez, MLS, MA

Photo credit: yum9me via photopin cc

Photo credit: yum9me via photopin cc

Do you have a burning clinical question or ideas for an evidence-based practice change, but are unsure of where to start? Are you passionate about improving care for patients? Have you done lots of work to advance practice, but do not know how to share your story?

If this sounds like you, don’t miss the preconference session From Concept to Conclusion: Success Factors for Leading Evidence-Based Practice in Oncology Nursing. Held on April 30, 2014, this interactive program will lead participants through the steps of implementing evidence-based practice change in their work setting. You’ll begin to see how easy this process can be! We’ll walk you through formulating your idea into a reasonable question to learning about keyword search strategies and applying them to databases like PubMed, CINAHL, and TRIP.

To get you thinking, we’ll include a team exercise on developing a PICO (Patient population, Intervention, Comparison, and Outcome) question. We’ll share a case exemplar of evidence-based practice on the frontlines, including how to build your team, stay focused, overcome barriers, and implement strategies that work to plan, implement, and disseminate your outcomes. As an extra bonus, we’ll discuss ONS PEP (Putting Evidence into Practice) resources and demo a live search of clinical research questions.

After this session, you’ll be able to develop a PICO question, create search strategies, identify high-quality journal articles, and build a strong project team to envision success. We’re looking forward to helping you enhance patient care in your facility.

Calling All Oncology Nurses to Congress—Especially the Young Ones

Written by Anne Ireland, MSN, RN, AOCN®, CENP

ONS CongressSometimes I hear nursing colleagues of my generation say that younger nurses are not engaged in their work environments, are not driven to develop new skills, and are not interested in giving to their professional organizations. These conversations make me personally sad and professionally afraid for the future of nursing and the viability of ONS. Being the eternal optimist that I am, I look for exemplars and data that prove this conversation is simply not accurate. I am not disappointed.

I see young nurses (who are often also young parents) advancing their education, presenting at conferences, taking on leadership roles in their local chapters, and engaged in councils and committees at their organizations.

Reviewing the ONS database, 8% of the 2013 ONS Congress attendees last year were less than 30 years old. Almost 20% of attendees had been in nursing for less than five years and 22% had worked in oncology for less than five years. When I compare this to the full ONS membership, this is a representative cohort, with the exception of the “years in oncology” area. In fact, more than 40% of our members have been in oncology for five years or less.

So to all of you who are relatively new to oncology, I extend a special invitation to attend the 39th ONS Congress from May 1–4, 2014 in Anaheim, CA. To those of you who are “more than 30” and coming again, I look forward to seeing you there and challenge you to bring a young oncology nursing colleague with you.

I recall my first year at Congress, more than 25 years ago now, and feel indebted to the experienced Congress attendee who took it upon herself to help me navigate the multitude of sessions, exhibits, forums, and educational programs.

As you may have heard, ONS will be moving to a single annual meeting beginning in 2015. Our goal is to hold a single meeting that will meet the needs of our entire membership: new nurses, “new to oncology” nurses, frontline nurses, advanced practice nurses, nurse researchers, corporate/industry nurses, and nurse educators. We need your input and invite your active participation in helping us transform our annual meeting into a venue that not only meets, but exceeds your expectations.

We invite and welcome your suggestions so we can deliver a meeting that has each of you wanting to attend every year. Please send your ideas to us directly at

I hope to see you all in Anaheim—young or not-so-young!

Are Survivorship Care Plans Meeting Survivors’ Needs?

Jamie Myers blog photo

photo credit: Camil Tulcan via photopin cc

Written by Jamie Myers, PhD, RN, AOCN® and A. Nicole Spray, APRN

We all are working very hard to develop meaningful survivorship care plans that meet the Institute of Medicine’s recommendations. But how do we know if our plans are working to meet the needs of both survivors and the primary care practitioner?

To help answer those questions, Nicole Spray and I interviewed a primary care physician, a physician’s assistant, and two survivors in urban and rural settings. We’ll be sharing video clips of these interviews during our upcoming Congress session, “Are Survivorship Care Plans Meeting Survivors’ Needs?” Each interviewee had valuable insights about desired care plan content, communication flow, and the use of electronic medical records.

Our interviewees taught us a great deal about the gaps between oncology and primary care and how care plans can better benefit survivors. We expect to learn a great deal from you, too! During our session, we’ll be including an open-mic component where you can share your own successes and challenges in survivorship care planning, delivery, and evaluation.

If you’re interested in learning more about survivorship before Congress, check out Patient Satisfaction With Breast and Colorectal Cancer Survivorship Care Plans, a recent CJON article that helped to inspire our session. Our session is sponsored by the Survivorship, Quality of Life, and Rehabilitation SIG, which all ONS members can join for free to network about survivorship issues.

We can’t wait to see you in Anaheim!

Heart in My Throat: Musings on a Plenary Session


Anne Katz blog photo

photo credit: Kfengler via Wikimedia Commons

Written by Anne Katz, PhD, RN

I have spoken far and wide about cancer and sexuality—to nurses, physicians, radiation therapists, sex therapists, patients and partners. I have spoken in large lecture theatres and small conference rooms and community halls. I have talked to audiences numbering in the thousands and to groups of just four or six. I have lectured on the topic so often that I think I could do it in my sleep—and my husband may be able to provide proof of that!

But receiving the email invitation to give a talk at Congress—an unopposed plenary session titled Sexuality and Cancer for the Frontline Nurse—has both shaken me to my core (in a good way) and inspired me to the point of tachycardia.

Why is that? I’m a confident professional who literally wrote the book on cancer and sexuality (the book is called Breaking the Silence on Cancer and Sexuality: A Handbook for Health Care Providers and it was published in 2007 by the Oncology Nursing Society). I’ve written another eight books after that one so I’m comfortable that I know what I’m talking about. I’m passionate about this topic and will speak to anyone who wants to hear more about it—in corridors and on planes and in supermarket lines. I can say ‘vulva’ with a mouth full of food and ‘penis’ in polite company with nary a blush or stammer.

Maybe my reaction is in part because of the audience I am speaking to. ONS is important to me, as it is to many of you. It is the premiere association for nurses who work with people during a critical illness that will forever change their lives and the lives of their family and friends. Oncology nurses are special in so many ways—and I don’t want to let them down by not doing a good job.

I want to educate and inspire and challenge nurses in the audience to address this issue with each and every patient, no matter their gender, disease, age, partner status, or sexual orientation. I want to give you the tools to do it if you have never done it before—or to do it better or more consistently if you already ask patients about this aspect of their lives.

So will I do all this? I hope so. But more than that, I plan to do so and intend to do so! Will it meet your needs? Only you will be able to judge that—so remember to be there when a short, blond nurse with her heart in her throat takes the podium on Thursday, May 1, at 4:15 pm.