Lisa Schulmeister, RN, MN, APRN-BC, OCN®, FAAN
Editor-in-Chief OncLive Nursing
Oncology Nursing Consultant, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Nursing
Louisiana State Health Sciences Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
It’s that time of year again, when you’ve either had the opportunity to attend the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Annual Congress, or you’ve been the one who stayed home to take care of patients. Whether you attended the meeting or not, it’s springtime and a good time to get recharged and stay current in oncology nursing.
Staying current is challenging. Many new cancer drugs and supportive agents are now being used in practice, and research in many areas of interest to oncology nurses (eg, symptom management, psychosocial issues, quality of life) is proliferating. When I ran into an oncologist who had retired and I asked why, his reply was that he no longer could pronounce the names of the drugs. Fortunately, we have resources, such as the ONS Annual Congress, that help us keep up.
The ONS 37th Annual Congress offered a wide array of information. There was a lecture on optimizing patient outcomes in light of advances in treating renal cell carcinoma, and another on BRAF inhibition in melanoma and its application in other cancers. Also offered were an overview of recently approved pharmacologic agents and a talk on helping patients and families cope with cancer. A plethora of congress sessions and satellite symposia delved into topics including translating research into practice; genomic competency; managing lymphedema; evidence-based practice; nutrition; the value of electronic health records; staffing ratios; infection in the neutropenic patient; and challenging cases in breast cancer and multiple myeloma.
Keynote speaker Brenda Elsagher, a speaker, author, and comedian, offered insight into the struggles a cancer patient experiences and what can bring comfort, as well as ways for nurses to discuss “taboo” subjects with their patients.
Finally, the achievements of five of our colleagues were recognized during the event. Among them was Carol Reed Ash, EDD, RN, FAAN, who received the ONS Lifetime Achievement Award. Ash is professor emeritus, Kirbo Endowed Chair, Oncology Nursing at the University of Florida in Gainesville. The award recognizes her outstanding contributions as a researcher, mentor, and educator, as well as her service to ONS and the community.
For the lucky ones who attended this comprehensive meeting, it was easy not only to learn the latest findings, but also to be inspired by thousands of passionate oncology nurses. The congress offers so many opportunities—for networking, for renewing friendships, and for self-development. It draws attendees from all over the map, so there also are opportunities to meet international nurses and learn how oncology care is delivered in other parts of the world. It’s a reminder that, although the US healthcare system is sometimes described as broken and inadequate, it is far more advanced than systems in underdeveloped countries, where even basic pain management is not available to patients.
This year’s congress was held where I live, in New Orleans, and the theme of the meeting was “get jazzed.” Getting pumped up in “N’Awlins” is a pretty easy thing to do, especially when the ONS Congress coincides with the world-renowned New Orleans Jazz Fest. The Jazz Fest is known for its food as much as its music; it’s been said that you can’t get a bad meal in New Orleans, and I believe that’s true. Having the ONS Congress in New Orleans during Jazz Fest is what we call lagniappe, or a “little something extra.”
For everyone who wasn’t able to attend the meeting, spring is a good time for you to seek out a little something extra, too. If nurses from your workplace attended the meeting, I hope they’ve come back with new information and renewed energy, and that they’ve shared what they learned with you. There are also other ways to “keep up with congress.” The ONS website, www.ons.org, has meeting recaps and information posted in its “conference” section. Audiotapes from the congress are available for purchase. Other resources include congress coverage and continuing education opportunities in Oncology Nursing News.
The breadth and depth of new information you’ll find is definitely something to “get jazzed” about.
And if you missed the chance to enjoy some crawfish and music along with your opportunity to learn, I encourage you to find a chance to relax right where you are. Take advantage of springtime and go outside to enjoy nature.
Our patients depend on oncology nurses who are not only well informed and current in their knowledge, but who are also calm and composed.