Reports from the EONS Leadership Summit 2017

Leading European cancer care in a time of change: The view from EONS' new President

Lena Sharp describes some of the challenges facing European cancer nurses, and her vision to address them with her EONS colleagues.

Lena Sharp

Lena Sharp

Health care is constantly changing and cancer care is no exception. We are facing great challenges among which are, aging populations, increased cancer incidence and prevalence and at the same time major reorganisations for cancer care in many countries. On top of this, we face serious workforce issues with high turnover rates and nursing shortages, resulting in reduced availability and quality of care but also to impaired health among the staff (increased risk of burnout and compassion fatigue).

Currently, we don’t have all the facts, but European cancer care will be impacted by the Brexit process. As nurse leaders, we need to take responsibility and guide our organisations and the nursing workforce through these changes. EONS has an important role here. We need to adapt to these changes but also to continue raising awareness and recognition of the importance of cancer nursing.

One of the biggest challenges that we face going forward is that cancer nursing is still not recognised as a specialty in many European countries, resulting in cancer care being delivered by nurses without the necessary competences for the complex care they provide. This negatively impacts safety, patient experiences and other important aspects of quality of care. It also has an impact on working conditions and career possibilities. Nurses are the largest group of health care providers in most European countries and one of the most trusted professions. A standardised cancer nursing education and better career possibilities for European cancer nurses would have huge and positive implications. EONS will focus strongly on these issues during 2018.

EONS’ recent Leadership Summit

Lena Sharp speaking at the EONS Leadership Summit 2017

Lena Sharp speaking at the EONS Leadership Summit 2017

European cancer nurse leaders are involved in improving services, ranging from prevention and treatment, through to end of life care. They are also very much involved in the developments in education, research, policy and advocacy work. This became even more apparent at EONS’ recent Leadership Summit in Ede, Netherlands.

At this successful summit, 150 cancer nursing leaders from 25 countries shared their experiences and knowledge. Professionalism is key and it was impressive to hear PhD-prepared nurse leaders from, for example, Estonia and Romania, describe how they make a huge difference in their countries, despite great challenges. The consequences of Brexit were also discussed during EONS Advisory Council (held at the leadership summit in November). The main concerns raised were related to cancer drug availability and nursing mobility. It is important to state that EONS is a European organisation and we will always include and welcome cancer nursing societies and individual members from all parts of Europe, regardless of political decisions such as Brexit.

EONS in 2018

EONS are planning for several important events during 2018, focusing on the changing face of European cancer care. The EONS Cancer Nursing Education Framework will be launched in early 2018. This is a major revision of the former EONS Cancer Nursing Curriculum. The overall purpose of this framework is to provide guidance regarding the competencies required by cancer nurses across Europe. The Framework comprises eight modules (see figure 1) which identify the fundamental knowledge and skills required for post-registration nurses working with people affected by cancer. For more on this see Harald Titzer’s article in this magazine.

Figure 1. Overview of EONS Cancer Nursing Education Framework

Figure 1. Overview of EONS Cancer Nursing Education Framework

Another major EONS event during 2018 will be the meeting with Members of the European Parliament in Brussels in May 2018. Here we shall present the results from EONS RECaN project and EONS Cancer Nursing Education Framework. The purpose is to bring the policy makers’ attention to disparities in cancer nursing and highlight the need for better recognition of specialist cancer nursing qualifications across Europe.

Another important event during 2018 is the European Cancer Nursing Day (ECND) on May 18. Building on the success of the 2017 event, we will invite you all to participate via EONS’ social media channels by posting short clips of your working day to highlight the many important and varied roles cancer nurses have. We will also arrange other related events in collaboration with the Belgium cancer nursing organisations, so please join us! More information will be available shortly.

Lena Sharp supports European Cancer Nursing Day 2017

Lena Sharp supports European Cancer Nursing Day 2017

Collaborations with other organisations

The RECaN project is a successful collaboration with ECCO, one which will continue during 2018. The recent leadership summit was also a collaboration with the US Oncology Nursing Society, ONS. During 2017, EONS worked together with the national cancer nurses’ societies in Estonia, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK for phase 2 of the RECaN project. These collaborations have been extremely important and we plan to increase EONS work together with other organisations, both at national and international levels. This work will be further discussed and planned at the upcoming EONS strategy meeting in Lisbon in February 2018.

More focus on cancer risk reduction

Another area that EONS will be paying more attention to during the next few years is cancer prevention. Cancer risk reduction, a more appropriate term than cancer prevention, is by far the most cost-effective, long-term strategy to reduce the cancer burden. As Dr Christopher P Wild, Director, International Agency for Research on Cancer recently stated: “No country can afford to treat its way out of the cancer problem. Rather a balanced approach to prevention, early detection and treatment is required!” We know that lifestyle habits are important risk factors and, as cancer nurses, we need to pay much more attention to issues such as tobacco, alcohol, obesity, nutrition, psychical activity and sun exposure. We also need to develop clearer roles for cancer nurses in screening and early detection programs.

Finally, with all the challenges we face as cancer nursing leaders, we need to improve the work with other professions to be successful, both clinically and in education, research and policy work. We need to promote and encourage multi-professional team work! We often complain that we don’t get recognised by other professional groups in health care and rightly so. But we also need to better recognise health care assistants and other professions that may get even less recognition. As cancer nursing leaders, we have a responsibility to use the resources in the most effective way, and we do that best by working together.

Here is a link to a short film about cancer nursing leadership that will be used in EONS policy work during 2018.

Lena Sharp is head of cancer care improvement, Regional Cancer Centre, Stockholm-Gotland, Sweden.