Cancer Nursing Leadership – A Memorable Debate
Paul Trevatt, EONS Communication working group chair and executive board member, chaired a top-level panel discussion on building cancer nursing through national societies.
Delegates at EONS10 in Dublin were extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to hear a panel of five cancer nursing society presidents (past and present) take part in a ground-breaking debate about the role and value of their national societies, and the part that cancer nursing leadership has played in promoting high quality cancer patient care, developing national cancer policy, and developing a pathway for cancer nurses to follow.
Panel members from left to right: Susan Schneider, Katarina Lokar, Eileen O’Donovan, Mei Krishnasamy, Stella Bialous
Between the different cancer nursing societies, they could boast a collective 220 plus years of cancer nursing history, membership representation and professional development. That’s a cancer nursing legacy worth celebrating.
Paul Trevatt, EONS Communication working group chair and executive board member, chaired the Masterclass and panel discussion on building cancer nursing through national societies. Each panellist was introduced and then had the opportunity to give the audience a brief overview regarding their national society, its achievements, and some of its challenges.
Paul Trevatt introduces the debate
Following this, a debate took place on subjects ranging from:
- how to engage with and represent the new generation of young cancer nurses
- how to inform and influence national cancer policy
- whether cancer nursing societies should open their membership to other professional groups.
Here is a flavour of the discussion and the inspiring contributions made by the participants:
Katarina Lokar, Institute of Oncology Ljubljana, Past-President Oncology Nurses Section, Slovenia
Hailing from a small country of two million, the Oncology Nurses Section in Slovenia has always punched above its weight since it was born 30 years ago. Its challenging role in educating and empowering the country’s nurses, most of them based at the Institute of Oncology Ljubljana, is well established and recognised in the region.
Although the burden of cancer is similar to that in many countries, it counts as the number one healthcare problem. Without systematic and regulated knowledge of cancer nursing in undergraduate and graduate programmes, and the lack of nursing educators, nurses strive to get their knowledge in cancer nursing in cancer centres, from their mentors and from the nursing society.
The economic crisis left its mark, especially on the development of the profession. Education, research and development took the back seat because of the declining resources as the workload on nurses get bigger. Until recently nursing was a safe job, as nurses became the sole providers for their families. It is not so anymore.
The society plays a huge role in education and professional development, in particular when nurses have no access to continuous education, and it has become a source of specialised knowledge. It is also a crucial source of literature for nurses in their own language, dealing with nursing practice and giving advice on safety. One of the society’s biggest achievements has been getting involved in the national cancer care plan by inputting the material on cancer nursing. This made it a leader in engaging and empowering nurses and championing their participation and in rebuilding what was lost in the economic crisis.
I see our society as a window to the world because through membership of EONS, participation in different projects, coming to conferences and to meetings, we go outside our borders and bring knowledge back. This allows us to understand where we are, and that we are not as different from others as we sometimes think.
Mei Krishnasamy, Past-President, Cancer Nurses Society of Australia, Current President, Clinical Oncology Society of Australia
Reflecting on a year of devastating humanitarian crises and shocking images of intolerance and cruelty, the need for exemplary leadership of our towns, cities and nations has rarely been greater. But as always in the midst of desolation, we have witnessed profound examples of human compassion, generosity and empathy. Nowhere more than in the work of nurses and doctors in every corner of the world.
The images of nurses who, at great personal risk to themselves, have delivered incredible technological, informed, effective, targeted, efficient interventions, love and tender care to those traumatised physically, emotionally, socially, culturally, religiously, speak to the raison d’être of our profession. This is true leadership: where you see pain, intervene; where you see loss and disadvantage, speak up; where you see disability, rehabilitate; where you see sadness and fear, comfort; where you see lack of knowledge and information, teach; where you have no answers, demand that we seek them. For me, these principles have defined nursing leadership in 2016.
The same opportunity presents itself to those of us blessed to live in peaceful, well-resourced countries. In 2016, the Cancer Nurses Society of Australia (CNSA) has worked to raise awareness of issues of critical importance – workforce shortage; inequity of access to treatment and of health care outcomes; safety and quality in the face of fiscal constraint, and the need to invest in cancer control and prevention. The true value of CNSA, as a national society, is that it provides a unique leadership platform for cancer nurses to have their say; to speak up and be heard on behalf of all peoples affected by cancer across our vast and disparate country.
The panel discussion gets underway, chaired by Paul Trevatt
Stella Bialous, President International Society of Nursing and Cancer Care, Associate Professor at the School of Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, USA
We’ve been around since 1984. We’re actually a vision and an idea; an initiative by Bob Tiffany, who was at the Royal Marsden Hospital (London, UK) at the time and did a great job in promoting cancer nursing internationally; and from that vision, we became the society that is now the International Society of Nursing and Cancer Care (ISNCC).
What we offer, that is slightly different and is not exclusive, is that we do really engage mostly at an international level. We have a really good partnership with Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) – for example, all of our members who are from a lower-middle income country can get free access to our membership to UICC.
We’re just revamping our relationship with the International Council of Nurses, and we are finding out from all the national and regional societies which people will be very well poised to be more of a global ambassador for nurses. And we’re continuing to engage with the World Health Organisation (WHO), either regionally or at the headquarters level – and we have had a lot of opportunities to provide input in some of their policy developments.
It is our role to find, nurture and support nurses who are creating national societies or working to strengthen the recognition of these societies as essential contributors to achieve global goals to reduce cancer-related suffering and mortality.
So, part of our job as a global society is to discover who can help whom and how. We try to connect the dots rather than trying to do it all ourselves and we are happy to support and assist. We look at the whole person and at the social determinants – poverty, the environment, family, and psychological aspects. We start by looking at what is the low point and national measure that are supporting the standard treatment guidelines (STG), and how could we get involved? It could be as simple as writing a letter to the editor.
National cancer nursing societies play a pivotal role in ensuring that the voice of cancer nurses is heard in policy and decision-making settings. It strengthens us as a profession and improves the care we can provide. But it requires fortitude and willingness to engage in political and policy arenas, which might be new for many nurses. I really want to encourage all of you to be involved. Politics is not a dirty word if it saves life.
Susan Schneider, President of the Oncology Nursing Society and Faculty Member of the School of Nursing at Duke University, USA
Our vision is to lead the transformation of cancer care and our mission is to advance excellence in oncology nursing and quality cancer care. And we have three values: innovation, excellence and advocacy.
We’re just over 40 years old and currently have 39,000 members. We have our strategic plan at three levels: innovation with knowledge and learning, excellence in oncology learning and patient care, and advocacy for patients and for the profession.
As well as public health issues and support for oncology nurses, we have been involved with patients’ safety issues, tobacco issues, clinical trials, nursing workforce issues, drugs shortage issues, and on payment for cancer care
As soon as President Obama announced the cancer Moonshot initiative – aiming to bring about a decade worth of advances in five years, making more therapies available to patients while also improving our ability to prevent cancer and detect it at an early stage – ONS got busy. One of the first things was to ensure that nurse leaders and researchers were at the listening posts attended by Vice-President Biden, who was charged with the initiative. ONS also managed to have a voice at the Blue Ribbon panel which determined the recommendations.
Another policy initiative was Capitol Hill days, where a mass lobbying of Washington DC was organised involving 100 oncology nurses. It started out with an educational session day where nurses were taught how to give information on cancer financing and advocacy, and how to talk to their legislators’ representatives. After clocking 300 different meetings, they were invited to the White House for an update on the Moonshot report, followed by a congressional reception.
The success of the Hill days was underpinned by a massive logistics operation ranging from the selection of the nurses by their Chapters, to arranging sponsorship, funding, transport, accommodations and sophisticated communications throughout.
Through advocacy, professional societies can engage and empower their members. Professional societies offer a collective voice that can impact the future of cancer care.
Eileen O’Donovan, Past-President and current Executive Member of IANO, Clinical Research Co-ordinator
The key to the success of the Irish Association for Nurses in Oncology (IANO) is our organisational structure and our legacy. Our organisational structure has 13 representatives on our executive, to include a representative from Academia, Paediatrics/Teenage Young Adults, from each of our five national networks, and from our five Special Interest Groups (SIGs): Breast, Lung, Gynae-oncology, Colorectal and Research. As an organisation, we strive to have engagement and collaboration with all oncology nurses in Ireland so that we can promote a cohesiveness that strengthens our organisation to achieve our goals, a key goal being the promotion of continuing nurse education.
Our vision and focus for the future are to evolve our SIGs, to be inclusive of our ‘young nurses’, to maintain and promote communication to our members (using a communication pathway), to promote research and evidence-based practice. We will continue to promote participation with international groups such as EONS and UKONS, as it stretches our ability to work at a higher level.
We believe that communication is vital, using all sources: website, social media, e-newsletter as well as our annual congress. Within a national and Irish context, we need to strive to continue to have recognition and a voice, particularly in the implementation of our national cancer strategy, which will dictate cancer care provision for the next 10 years. We were fortunate to have been on the steering committee for this strategy but must continue this momentum of recognition and involvement. We plan to also continue our participation in development of national guidelines. There’s plenty for us to do as we continue our wonderful legacy.
From left to right: Paul Trevatt, Mei Krishnasamy, Eileen O’Donovan, Stella Bialous, Katarina Lokar, Susan Schneider