By Carol Cannon, RN, BSN, OCN®

I clearly remember the email from Nonniekaye Shelburne, the ONS Congress Planning Team chair, welcoming me on board for Congress 2014. I reread it several times in disbelief. I was hesitant to apply because I didn’t consider myself an expert in oncology nursing. I didn’t publish frequently. I didn’t have my advanced degree. I was simply an oncology nurse, passionate about my field and excited about the multiple opportunities ONS offers their members to stretch themselves beyond their daily work.

During our first planning team conference call, I felt intimidated and nervous. But within a few weeks, I was contacting experts across the country and helping them build their objectives inflatable floating water park and content. I connected people who shared fervor for similar subtopics related to oncology nursing. It involved being available to other members of the team, ONS, and the speakers. It gave me such satisfaction to help create these sessions that I was so excited to attend.

My favorite part of the experience was meeting the other team members the night before the preconference sessions. I felt like I knew them because we were all so intimately familiar with each other’s email addresses. But I had no idea that I would leave Congress with such great mentors, colleagues, and friends. The week of Congress was packed chock-full of events. I ran from session, to learning hall, to clinical simulation scenario. It was exhausting, but oh so fun. I left Anaheim waiting anxiously to start planning the 2015 Congress.

Sure enough, the planning team got right back to work. With a year of experience under my belt, I was impassioned to do an even better job. In addition to helping coordinate several educational sessions, I’m also continuing to create clinical simulation scenarios and share the exciting happenings in Congress preparation with the ONS members through blogs and social media.

When I applied to the Congress Planning Team, I hoped to network and gain education on various aspects of oncology nursing that I did not typically experience. Looking back, I achieved those goals and more. I have met and worked with oncology nurses and providers from all over the United States. I have made virtual friends over social media, who later I met in real life. I gained knowledge of geriatric tools to improve care of the older adult with cancer, saw how two different hospitals ensured competent continuity of care during natural disasters, and discovered strategies to encourage your patients to increase physical activity. I’m learning measurement tools to assess the success of patient navigation programs in different patient populations and how to use social media to engage patients and colleagues. My experience on the planning team allowed me to help build something that I’m so proud of and so excited to share with all of you.

ONS is now calling members to apply to be part of the 2016 ONS Congress Planning Team. I personally encourage you to think about extending your dedication to patients with cancer to be a part of this amazing process. Learn more about the team and apply now!

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