Attendees from the ONS 41st Annual Congress were invited to write a blog post to share the Big Change they experienced as a result of attending Congress. Thank you to Sarah Dutkevitch, RN, OCN®, for sharing how congress inspired change in her practice!

By: Sarah Dutkevitch, RN, OCN®

I was so excited to have the opportunity to attend ONS’s 41st Congress in San Antonio, TX, after a four-year hiatus. As a nurse navigator working with the breast, gyn/onc, and colon risk programs, I learned a number of things that I would incorporate in my practice. They are smaller changes that I think will add up to making a BIG change.

Regina Carlisle’s lecture on health literacy included an audience participation exercise and evaluation of educational materials using the SMOG tool, which I found extremely useful. The SMOG tool is a way of testing the level of education required to understand a piece of writing. The lecture included vignettes from real patients explaining that reading health materials was like trying to decipher a foreign language, and I found that especially illuminating. I plan to SMOG all of our current homegrown patient materials and will use this method in the development of future educational materials.

I also had a great conversation with Susan Getz, RN, OCN®, about her poster, “Open Label Randomized Clinical Study Comparing Calendula vs. Aquaphor and Aloe Vera Gel in Women With Breast Cancer Undergoing Radiotherapy” was very interesting. We discussed the potential for faster healing with calendula from skin irritation and dermatitis after radiation therapy. I was also inspired by the perseverance and dedication of the staff nurses from their 4 sites who continued to push through and complete this research project after their APN, who wrote the protocol, left the practice.

The symposium, “Strategies for Preventing Lymphedema: Striving to Improve Every Patient’s Quality of Life” included exciting information about technology that can detect changes in fluid volume in Stage 0- sub-clinical lymphedema before there are outward symptoms. It does this by measuring electrical impedance. This gives an opportunity to intervene months before progressive symptoms occur and hopefully avoiding irreversible lymphedema. Early detection is key in cancer care and it’s especially important when we are talking about the sequelae associated with cancer related treatments.

The Power Session “Moral Courage: Building Resilience” gave me some food for thought. I need to work on my moral resilience. I have wanted to approach my colleagues and advocate for my patients about doing more with survivorship care plans and survivorship education for recurrent cancers—even when it “causes more work” or isn’t required for credentialing.

I brought all of these things home from Congress, and I look forward to implementing them into my practice.

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