Susan Weiss Behrend, RN, MSN, AOCN®, Congress Planning Team Member

As we approach the end of 2019, it is a great time to think about setting positive intentions for next year, both personally and professionally.

ONS Congress is a chance for oncology nurses to nurture their professional aspirations and also serves as an important reminder to prioritize self-care.

Here are some helpful tips for planning your Congress experience. First, take a peek at the Congress website, which outlines all of the educational opportunities offered from sunrise to sunset. Second, complete your administrative items, such as registration, lodging, and mode of transportation. Finally, craft a personal schedule that outlines your selection of sessions and events so that you get the most out of Congress 2020.    

If you are already exhausted by all the pre-Congress preparation, do not fret! Congress provides oncology nurses with opportunities to find a balance between their busy professional and personal lives. And remember, self-care begins before your arrival and should include the following:

Get the most out of your visit
One of the many valuable takeaways from Congress is the chance to network in person with friends and associates from around the world. Contact your regional, national, and international colleagues, and arrange time to see them for a fun outing such as a meal, a sporting event, or to visit the numerous historic sites in beautiful San Antonio.

Plan to take a personal break and explore the many offerings of this charming city, replete with historic walking tours, fun carriage rides, delicious gourmet restaurants, and, of course, meander along the famous Riverwalk for exercise, site-seeing, and shopping. 

Plan for self-care
Pack business casual layers with comfortable walking shoes. Consider bringing high-energy protein bars and other nutritious non-perishable snacks. Early morning breakfast lines can be long, so you might want to have nourishment on hand, as Congress offers attendees a jam-packed schedule of educational sessions, networking opportunities, and activities designed specifically for oncology nurses.

Take time to participate in self-care activities at Congress. This year, the Congress Planning Team is offering a session titled “Self-Care for Oncology Nurses: Much More Than a Luxury” on Wednesday, April 29, from 1–3 pm. This session will feature fundamentals of self-care and the support of developing this type of program within our workplaces. 

In addition, consider participating in the annual Fun Run/Walk and the Wake Your Inner Warrior group yoga session.  If your schedule allows, plan time to enjoy the hotel pool, gym, spa, or sauna.

Congress is a time for expanding educational horizons, but also serves as a time for oncology nurses to put themselves first. In this line of work, we are always evolving and embracing our desire to provide the best care for our patients. We strive to be integral to a fine interprofessional team founded on evidence-based cancer care, expert clinical delivery, and continued mentorship. So, take the time that you deserve at Congress and try to make time for rest and relaxation in your busy schedule.   

My challenge to all attendees is to make a minimum of one new contact. Introduce yourself to another oncology nurse at a meal, a round table, a session, or simply say hello while walking in the exhibit hall.  Strike up a conversation, share your contact information, and you will find the ultimate conduit for fulfilling your individual power, passion and purpose as an oncology nurse. 

Register now and join 4,000 other oncology nursing professionals at the ONS 45th Annual Congress in San Antonio, Texas, from April 29 to May 3, 2020.