Reports from the EONS Leadership Summit 2017

The leaders of the future gathered at Ede! Young cancer nurses #movingforward

Sara Torcato Parreira looks at the concerns, hopes and dreams of young cancer nurses across Europe and reports on exciting plans to expand the YCN network.

Young cancer nurses (YCN) met at the Leadership Summit for a wide-ranging discussion and developed an action plan for 2018.

Young cancer nurses (YCN) met at the Leadership Summit for a wide-ranging discussion and developed an action plan for 2018.

Since I was nominated as the EONS Young Cancer Nurses (YCN) representative, I’ve been trying to expand our network of YCNs. In September, I asked national societies to nominate one YCN representative, just because, as Gandhi said: “Our ability to reach unity in diversity will be the beauty and the test of our civilisation.”

Eleven nominations were received, from the following countries:

  • Austria (Saskia Ronacher)
  • Cyprus (Constantina Cloconi)
  • Estonia (Lemme-Liis Aruväli)
  • Finland (Heta Savela)
  • Greece (Rafaella Karageorgiou)
  • Iceland (Katla Marín Berndsen)
  • Ireland (Kathell Geraghty)
  • Portugal (Maria Dias)
  • Spain (Laura Bascunana Sanchez)
  • Sweden (Anna Dunberger)
  • Turkey (Behice Belkıs Çalışkan).

A Skype call with the YCN National Representatives was planned for 6 November. Important topics were discussed about the challenges that Young Cancer Nurses face and the future of cancer nursing. Most people feel that: “nursing schools provide little education about cancer” and that it is difficult to find reliable information, mainly in other languages beside English; “there is a lack of knowledge about how to communicate with patients and their families”; also, many young nurses are stressed, because they work too many hours and they cannot balance work-life; they feel that their salary is not much better if they get their specialisation (which in most countries they pay for themselves) so “it’s just not worth it” and, therefore, some of them feel that, among the cancer nursing community “knowledge is getting lower”.

At the EONS Leadership Summit a group of YCNs got together and they were invited to speak about the needs/challenges that YCNs face in their country, as well as to share some suggestions. We had representatives from Austria, Cyprus, Estonia, Greece, Palestine, Portugal and Sweden. For most of them it was their first time at an EONS event, and feedback was impressive: many were able to attend the Leadership Summit due to the EONS YCN Grants and they were willing to return to their countries and share their experiences with colleagues, in order to introduce more YCNs to their national societies and to EONS.

During our meeting, some main concerns for YCNs were raised:

  • Lack of education in cancer nursing
  • Lack of research in cancer nursing
  • Cancer nursing not recognised as a specialty
  • Migration/political issues (workforce shortage, low salary, no career progression…)
  • Relations with older nurses
  • Difficulty in work-life balance (many nurses have to use their own time and money to become specialised)

Several suggestions were discussed, to minimise some of those needs, such as:

  • National and international workshops for YCNs
  • Maximise our YCN network: disseminate among national societies and EONS in a range of countries, as well as events/courses abroad
  • Basic education about cancer and treatments and how to get recommendations about reliable information/resources
  • Engage YCNs in research.

This discussion was very productive and, along with the national representatives, an action plan was drawn up for 2018. Exciting news will come soon. So, keep in touch and follow EONS on social media (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram).

Sara Torcato Parreira, is an oncology nurse specialist based near Lisbon, Portugal, and is the first young cancer nurse (YCN) to join the EONS Board as a non-executive member.