When breakthroughs in cancer research or patient care happen, they often dominate the headlines. Drawing interest from patients and the public alike, research news often makes the rounds through popular Facebook posts, in-depth newspaper articles, or an evening report on the nightly news. Cutting-edge developments in oncology care offer hope to many patients and can breathe new life into the fight against cancer.
The reality of cancer research is that it takes a specific professional skillset and dedicated knowledge base to translate research study results into improvements in patient care. The Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree is the highest level of clinical nursing a nurse can obtain, and it provides the educational base to begin implementing new patient-centered research into clinical practice. For clinical nurse specialist and Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) member Anne Kolenic, DNP, APRN, AOCNS, clinical nurse specialist, Ambulatory Oncology at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center, Cleveland, Ohio, her decision to pursue a DNP degree meant taking critical research results and implementing them to improve care at her institution.
“My DNP-educated role helps me incorporate new research, national guidelines, and the best available evidence into clinical practice to improve the outcomes for our patients,” Kolenic says. “My education really helped me understand how to take what’s available and ready for patient care and implement it into practice. It showed me how to do that in a way that’s both practical and works for the oncology nurses in our institution.”
Through her education, Kolenic was able to develop new improvement programs for her patients and coworkers. She focused on advancing the safety of chemotherapy administration in her institution, among other initiatives.
“Being part of the chemotherapy-infusion world, a really important practice change for me was implementing nationally-approved safe-handling guidelines for chemotherapy medications,” Kolenic says. “Ensuring that our patients and providers are safe from potential hazards is huge, so I set about making the change at my institution. Unfortunately, incorporating change at a large organization can be difficult. But I found that it was crucial to have the right people sitting at the right table, so we could have those important conversations for our patients. Thankfully, my DNP education prepared me for that challenge.”
Beyond improving the care environment for her patients, Kolenic’s pursuit of higher education led to developing her role as an oncology nursing leader. By sharing her voice and perspective, she’s been able to advocate for her patients throughout their cancer journeys.
“We’ve always had our nursing management side of leadership, who understand the clinical side of care, but they can’t always get into the day-to-day details when having conversations with organization leadership. That’s where my role comes in,” Kolenic says. “It’s important to have both of those nursing perspectives advocating for patients and providing the whole picture to our institution’s decisionmakers to encourage new practice improvements.”
According to Kolenic, her decision to obtain a DNP degree was the logical next step in her journey as an oncology nurse. However, pursuing higher education can be a difficult, expensive, and time-consuming endeavor. She looked to the ONS Foundation for support.
“I’ve been really fortunate as I’ve pursued my education. The ONS Foundation awarded me a clinical doctoral scholarship, which helped to pay for a portion of my tuition,” Kolenic says. “I also received funding through the Foundation to implement my DNP project into the hospital setting at my institution. Throughout the entire process, the folks at the Foundation were very open and helpful along the way.”
Kolenic acknowledges the crucial support she received from the ONS Foundation—one of the only dedicated resources for funding, grants, and scholarships available to oncology nurses.
“It’s getting harder and harder for nurses to find funding opportunities, and the ONS Foundation really goes out of its way to make sure oncology nurses can access the resources they need for projects and educational aspirations,” Kolenic says. “The Foundation does a phenomenal job of helping nurses get the education they want and need, so they can bring back new ideas for patients with cancer.”
Through educational opportunities, funding for professional development, educational scholarships, and patient-centered research grants, the ONS Foundation is helping oncology nurses explore new possibilities to improve the quality of care for their patients with cancer. The Foundation relies on the generous contributions of its donors to continue the support of successful oncology nursing practice.
For more information, visit ONSFoundation.org.