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Maggie A. Smith is a director-at-large for the national Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), as well as nominating-chair and immediate-past president of the Chicago Chapter of ONS. Her clinical and research interest include being a voice for underrepresented and underserved populations. She is also, involved in community outreach and breast health education.

Leadership Is a Universal Language: A Look at Oncology Nursing in Colombia

Leadership shares a unique commonality despite the profession an individual chooses; it is a universal language that is spoken despite the native tongue.
PUBLISHED: 7:22 PM, TUE JULY 30, 2019
Recently, I was presented with an opportunity to be a speaker in Bogota, Colombia at their annual Oncology Nursing Seminar. It was a privilege to partake in hospital and clinic visits to tour their facilities, learn about their healthcare delivery systems, discuss their oncology nursing needs in symptom management, and answer their most important questions pertaining to diversity in oncology nursing roles and learn about their culture. Among their top interests were the role of the oncology nurse navigator and how to become empowered as an oncology nurse with decision-making. Easy-peasy right? 

Prior to my travels, I wanted to do my due diligence to research the country. It was important to learn more about how nurses are valued in Colombia, research how involved nurses are in the multidisciplinary team, what cancer(s) have the highest prevalence, and if there was a call to action plan in place to address it. Interestingly, Colombia is one of the top 30 countries most in need of professional nurses, ranking 19 in the world.1  

After several conference calls with Professor Gloria Mabel Carrillo, one of the organizers of the conference, as well as conversations with my colleague and Colombian native, Maria Czupryn MS, ARNP, AOCN, it was clear that the role of the oncology nurse needed a resurgence there. I learned through conversations with them that the role of nurses is not heavily weighted in Colombia; nurses do not have a lot of autonomy, and I was told that some view the role of the nurse as a delegate and not as a team player. As a matter of fact, the role of the advanced practice nurse is non-existent there; quite contrary to what we see in the United States, as some oncology clinics are led by advanced practice nurses, and in some states this group of professionals have prescriptive authority.2

During my presentation on symptom management, I shared some of the best resources used by oncology nurses to date, Oncology Nursing Society’s (ONS), Putting Evidence into Practice (PEP) resources. This was a distinctive choice as these resources were made for oncology nurses by fellow oncology nurses, advanced practice nurses, and nursing researchers all at the forefront of tackling issues that impact our oncology patients. Throughout the conference, several nursing students presented their research projects on various oncology topics and issues, highlighting their eagerness and willingness to tackle issues currently impacting our profession and patients, and sharing their innovative ideas. On the last day of the conference, I delivered my final presentation which was meant to inspire and empower the attendees. I spoke about roles outside of being a staff nurse, highlighting nurse entrepreneurs, oncology nurse navigators, differentiating novice versus expert navigators, emphasizing the role as defined by ONS, and then distinguishing the differences as outlined by the Oncology Care Model. 

I was overjoyed by the warm welcome and hospitality I received while there. I met some great people who became lifelong friends. While I was charged with the responsibility of empowering my peers, they did the same for me. It was invigorating. Leadership shares a unique commonality despite the profession an individual chooses; it is a universal language that is spoken despite the native tongue. Leadership is supple, it’s leading by doing, showing, and not telling and working with the resources you have and not complaining. I observed several leaders during my time in Bogota, some were being planted; others were growing, and some were already in full bloom, leading the way, helping others to stay on path.

With the impeding nursing shortage facing our profession, we must continue to stress the importance of the role of the nurse as a vital component to the health care team. We must cultivate resiliency, be resilient and allow nothing to hold us back from advancing our profession to continued new heights.

  1. Top RN to BSN (2019). 30 countries most in need of professional nurses  Retrieved  July 26, 2019 from,
  2. Scope of Practice Policy (2019). Nurse practitioners overview. Retrieved July 25, 2019 from,


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