Getting the Facts Straight About Obesity

Lose weight now

photo credit: Alan Cleaver via photopin cc

By Carol Cannon, RN, BSN, OCN®

A lot has been publicized about initiating a conversation with patients about smoking cessation. We’ve all been taught that the single best thing someone can do for their health is to quit tobacco use.

However, I learned some surprising information at the 2013 ONS Congress. Stephen Hursting, PhD, MPH, shared his research from the department of nutritional sciences at the University of Texas at Austin, explaining that obesity is actually a bigger contributor to cancer than tobacco. It caused me to ask myself, when was the last time I counseled a patient to lose weight? Today, I still struggle with this concept.

I currently work in the acute care setting. The patients who come in for a bone marrow transplant will likely lose weight in the process of transplant, but that’s not an acceptable excuse. Some people need counseling to maintain a healthy weight post-transplant. Many newly diagnosed leukemics need massive weight loss to improve their overall health. While I am quick to reward weight loss efforts, I typically do not initiate the conversation or emphasize the importance of continuing diet modifications and physical activity. In fact, I have been the nurse who buys French fries for the patient who is “just craving them.”

Sometimes it is easy to take on the mentality, these people have cancer. They deserve to eat what they want. Particularly when nausea and vomiting are common, it’s easy to ask them to try and get down anything they can. You only live once, right? But perhaps I am only doing a disservice to my patients by avoiding this ongoing discussion. Obesity is not only a major risk factor for cancer, but it also contributes to a poorer prognosis and an increased risk for recurrence.

On Thursday afternoon of the ONS 40th Annual Congress, Adrienne Wald, EdD, MBA, RN, MCHES, will discuss the latest evidence about this challenging topic in a session titled Obesity and Cancer.” She will also cover nursing interventions and educational guidelines that are imperative to ensure the best possible outcomes for your patients with cancer. I will be there with my pen and notepad in hand!

Share Your Latest Research Findings at Congress


We’re now accepting submissions for late-breaking research abstracts to be presented at the ONS 40th Annual Congress. This special call for abstracts allows you to present your most current data in Orlando.

An abstract is a form that summarizes your work, submitted for potential presentation. The 60 top-scoring abstracts will be presented during a Congress podium session, a special opportunity to share your work at an internationally acclaimed nursing conference. Other top-scoring abstracts will be selected for poster presentations, visual displays of oncology nursing projects from around the world.

Abstracts are due on Monday, February 2, at 11:59 pm EST. Please review the abstract instructions before you submit your abstract. Those whose abstracts have been accepted will be notified no later than February 27.

If you need help getting started, take advantage of our abstract mentorship program. We’ll pair you with an experienced author who can walk you through the abstract submission process. Email or contact the ONS education department at 1-866-257-4ONS to join the program.

40 Under 40: ONS Celebrates 40th Anniversary With 40 Congress Scholarships

40 under 40

To commemorate the past 40 years of ONS and look forward to the next 40, the ONS Foundation, with the generous support of the ONS–Lilly Oncology Advancing Patient Care Project, will be offering 40 Congress scholarships for emerging chapter leaders under the age of 40. Recipients will receive an educational scholarship for up to $1,200 to fund their trip to the ONS 40th Annual Congress in Orlando, FL.

Think you fit the bill? Apply now to be considered for a scholarship. You’ll need to have one of your chapter officers fill out a Chapter Recommendation Form to accompany your application.

Not under 40, but know an emerging leader? Encourage your eligible colleagues to apply. If you’re a chapter officer, you can get them started by filling out the Chapter Recommendation Form in advance.

Please note: The application deadline has now passed.

Finding Your Way Through Oncology


By Marci Andrejko, BSN, RN, OCN®

When I think back to when I was a new nurse, I remember feeling overwhelmed with all of the new information. Then, there was the ever-so-scary responsibility of taking care of patients and keeping them safe. I thought, “Wow, I have so much to learn!” I often caught myself wondering if I could do it. Do you feel the same? Are you overwhelmed? Did you think your learning was finished on graduation day?

As you adjust into your role, remember, many others have been in your shoes and survived. In fact, many oncology nurses who felt this way have become very successful mentors and will be speaking at the ONS 40th Annual Congress. These experts will be presenting on topics like symptom management and survivorship to help enrich your oncology nursing career. They will provide the audience with tools to help guide nursing care, as well as new knowledge to gain a deeper understanding of oncology-related topics.

Whether your goal for attending Congress is to increase your knowledge, jumpstart your passion for oncology nursing, connect with peers, or meet mentors, I encourage you to explore the Congress schedule to find sessions that will help you get your career off to a wonderful start.

Neurotoxicity: Not Just “Chemobrain”


By Carol Cannon, RN, BSN, OCN®

I remember when I started as a nurse, fresh from the ICU, now caring for patients with cancer. They would stumble over words, have trouble remembering things from the recent past, or forget tasks. “Chemobrain,” they would say. As if that one word was a catchall phrase to adequately explain various memory deficits. How strange, I thought. Surely it cannot be that simple.

Neurotoxicity is not that simple. Identifying signs and symptoms of cancer treatment-related neurotoxicity is a critical piece of every oncology nurse’s role. But if you’re anything like me, that simple sounding “neuro check” can be an overwhelmingly daunting task, unless your practice requires them frequently.

Luckily, at the ONS 40th Annual Congress, two experts will present Neurotoxicity in Cancer Care: A Case-Based Approach. Mary Elizabeth Davis, RN, MSN, AOCNS®, and Wayne Quashie, MSN, RN, ACNS-BC, AOCNS®, will present specific cases to educate us on cognitive deficits, peripheral system disorders, and central system disorders. The audience will leave with an enhanced ability to assess for and manage short- and long-term complications, improving our patients’ quality of life during and after cancer treatment.

Patient Navigation and Care Coordination: An Integral Part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Patient Navigation and Care Coordination

By Carol Cannon, RN, BSN, OCN®

There are so many aspects to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that I learned about the “Patient Protection” part of its very name. I also recently learned that patient navigation is directly referenced in Section 3510, which amends part of the Public Health Service Act to award grants to the Patient Navigator Program. These programs must employ navigators that have minimum core proficiencies as defined by the institution. Additionally, patient navigators are designated in the act to help the public understand their choices related to the healthcare marketplace products and assist them in making the selection that best fits their needs. Some states use the term “in-person assisters,” as patient navigators do much more than just help people understand their insurance coverage.

Patient navigation and care coordination are woven throughout the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Aims of navigation and care coordination—eliminating disparities of medically underserved populations, promoting a patient-centered model of healthcare delivery, eliminating barriers to appropriate, time-sensitive care, and easing transitions of care throughout the fragmented, complex system—are well aligned with the premise of the act.

Navigation is particularly important in the chronic, complex care of patients and families dealing with a diagnosis of cancer. Racial and ethnic minorities and those with low socioeconomic status are more likely to die from cancer than the general population. Patient navigation allows nurses, other professionals, and trained lay people to help patients overcome barriers to care in a culturally sensitive and coordinated approach.

Many of us may not have the title of “oncology nurse navigator,” yet we coordinate care of our patients in our daily professional lives. Others may be formal navigators, in multiple capacities, guiding patients and families through the difficult cancer care trajectory. Clearly, as it is written into our national health law, this role is necessary as people of multiple backgrounds are accessing our healthcare system.

At the ONS 40th Annual Congress, two speakers with very different experiences in patient navigation will talk about the dynamic environment of oncology care coordination in a session called “Care Coordination Throughout the Cancer Trajectory: Improving Communication, Developing Metrics, and Measuring Impact.”

How many of you were aware that this critical role was written into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?

This article originally appeared on the ONS Connect site at


Understand the Psychosocial Challenges of Young Adults With Cancer

ONS Booth Chats_8

By Nonniekaye Shelburne, CRNP, MS, AOCN®, 2014–2015 ONS Congress planning team chair

With 70,000 new cancer diagnoses in young adults each year and more than one million survivors, this patient population is growing rapidly. Young adults with cancer have traditionally fallen between the two worlds of pediatric and adult cancer. They are not children with cancer, yet they aren’t older adults either. They are instead a unique population with developmental tasks and life experiences that differ from those in other life stages.

I had the opportunity to care for a man in his early twenties who was undergoing a hematopoietic stem cell transplant for leukemia. He and his wife had been married for four years and had three children—the youngest only four months old. Understandably, their concerns going into treatment included how to talk to their preschool children about why daddy was in the hospital, how they would maintain their health insurance while the husband wasn’t working during treatment, and how his wife could be a caregiver to her husband as well as three small children. As the patient transitioned to survivorship care, important topics for this family became how to safely integrate the patient back into the workplace, managing fatigue while keeping up with an active family, and redefining intimacy while considering body image changes due to graft-versus-host disease and treatment-related infertility.

The young adult population poses unique challenges and multiple unmet needs, many of them in the psychosocial domain. Nurses are ideally situated to provide psychosocial care to these individuals, their families, and partners.

“Young adults have developmental milestones that must be achieved in order to transition to full adulthood. Cancer causes a biological and psychosocial interruption, leading to many different challenges in daily life and future planning.”— Anne Katz, RN, PhD

Anne Katz, RN, PhD, will provide a session at the ONS 40th Annual Congress titled “Psychosocial Challenges for the Young Adult With Cancer—How Can We Help?” Join us to address these issues and take away tools to use in your work with these individuals, their partners, and families. Follow Katz on Twitter @DrAnneKatz. You can also learn more from Katz in her most recent book, This Should Not Be Happening: Young Adults With Cancer.

This article originally appeared on the ONS Connect site at

What Do Ebola and Hazardous Drugs Have in Common? Safe Handling Procedures


By Marci Andrejko, BSN, RN, OCN®

In light of the recent Ebola outbreak, there has been a heightened sense of awareness regarding personal protective equipment (PPE). Although contact with Ebola as an oncology nurse would be unusual, contact with hazardous drugs is a frequent occurrence. Despite the increased awareness of safe handling, there is still resistance to its implementation. Without the use of safe handling procedures, nurses are at an increased risk for exposure, leading to serious and potentially life-threatening adverse outcomes.

Resistance is often grounded with reasons. For example, I think back to when I was working on a busy oncology unit. I would always wear the required PPE, double gloves and a closed front gown. However, thinking I was saving the facility money, I would reuse the gown. I thought since I did not spill on it, it must be safe to use again.

My practice changed after an oncology nurse colleague shared her personal story regarding infertility issues, which were possibly caused by exposure to chemotherapy drugs. My heart broke for her. I knew then, I did not want to tell the same story myself. From that day forward, I pledged to protect others and myself from the risks of exposure. Resistance to following safe handling procedures not only puts you at risk, but also your colleagues, patients, and visitors as well.

I am honored to be coordinating a preconference session on safe handling at the ONS 40th Annual Congress, to be held April 23-26 in Orlando, FL. The session will feature experts in safe handling guidelines and first-hand experiences of the implementation of a safe handling program.

Take the time to review your institution’s safe handling procedures and think about how you can decrease the risk of exposure. Do not let reasons for resistance cause undue harm.

This article originally appeared on the ONS Connect site at

ONS Beefs Up Its Social Media Presence for the ONS 40th Annual Congress

Social Media

By Carol Cannon, RN, BSN, OCN®

“Tweet or Die” was the name of a session held during the American College of Surgeon’s annual conference several years ago. Since reading about it, I cannot get that phrase out of my head. It’s a twist on “publish or perish,” a phrase commonly cited by PhD-prepared scholars in the world of academia. These strong words convey the seriousness of the issue. If you aren’t using social media, you aren’t practicing to the best of your abilities. In the wake of the Institute of Medicine’s Future of Nursing’s recommendation to practice to the full extent of your license, I believe wholeheartedly that that includes responsible use of social media.

Social media allows us to connect and create an online community with other nurses and members of the healthcare world. It helps us to stay on top of the massive amounts of new research coming out that will change our clinical practice, and it offers a forum where we can share challenges and propose strategies to meet those challenges.

Some nurses are afraid of social media. Certainly, horrible stories of nurses losing their jobs over posts on Facebook are circulating out there, but these are the exceptions. Social media is not to be feared; it is to be used and embraced, especially by nurses!

I am so excited to be coordinating a session on professional use of social media at the ONS 40th Annual Congress, to be held April 23–26 in Orlando, FL. The session is currently under construction, but it will feature nurses and colleagues who have seen the light and found the exponential benefits that social media can offer one’s professional practice.

A perfect example of social media’s benefits is the way this year’s Congress content planning team will be striving to engage members and attendees. Here are a few things you can expect in the months leading up to Congress.

  • Weekly updates from the team explaining what we’re working on, like coordinating interesting sessions and finding expert speakers
  • Blog posts! The Congress blog is set to launch in December when registration opens. Until then, read about Congress highlights on the ONS Connect blog.
  • Questions for you: Follow ONS on Facebook and Twitter, and help us plan the Congress sessions. We want to know what you want to see and learn at Congress. For starters, what would you like to learn or share about social media in your practice? Any fears? Hesitations? Success stories?

Although we’re more than six months away from Congress, the content planning team is already shoulder-deep in planning. We want to share our excitement with you . . . through social media. So log on and get connected!

This article originally appeared on the ONS Connect site at

All Oncology Nurses, Especially Those New to Oncology, Should Attend Congress

Young Nurses

By Anne Ireland, MSN, RN, AOCN®, CENP

Sometimes 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, 10% of the 2014 ONS Congress attendees last year were younger than 30 years old. More than 38% of attendees had been in nursing for less than five years and 46% had worked in oncology for less than five years. When I compare this to the full ONS membership, this is a representative cohort.

So to all of you who are relatively new to oncology, I extend a special invitation to attend the ONS 40th Annual Congress from April 23–26, 2015, in Orlando, FL. To those of you who are older 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 moved to a single annual meeting. 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 Orlando—young or not-so-young!

This article originally appeared on the ONS Connect site at