5 Experts Discuss What Advocacy Looks Like in Oncology Nursing

Oncology Nursing News® recently sat down 5 seasoned nurses and asked them what advocacy looks like in the context of oncology nursing.

How can oncology nurses best advocate for one another? Oncology Nursing News® recently sat down 5 seasoned nurses and asked them what advocacy looks like in the context of oncology nursing. To read more insights from their experiences across the spectrum of care, visit the links provided for full stories from each expert.

Kristin Daly, MSN, ANP-BC, AOCNP, Siteman Cancer Center in Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis

“Education is advocacy. I believe that very strongly. Oncology nurses have a huge amount of knowledge to spread. When we share that information with each other and with our patients, we are advocating not only for ourselves, but for our profession and our role.

I’m always excited not only to share my knowledge, but to learn from, from other oncology nurses. One of my favorite parts of having conferences—whether virtual or in person—is really getting the opportunity to talk to other nurses.”

Read more: Daly Discusses Biomarkers and Emerging Targeted Therapies for Cancer Care

Anne Delengowski, RN, MSN, AOCN, CCCTM, director of Oncology Nursing Education at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital

“A key role is mentorship. Educations is also [important]—you can see the anxiety decrease when you educate [another individual].

When you get an individual to really understand what their role is, and how important their role is, it is empowering. [You’re] empowering that frontline nurse to be the best he or she can possibly be. Once you engage your fellow nurses and when a clinical trial is done, and we did what we had to do, it’s really exciting.”

Read more: Clinical Trials Continue to Propel Field of Oncology with Nurses on The Frontline

Milagros Elia, MA, APRN, ANP-BC, Environmental Health Activist

“We can advocate for each other by promoting the public understanding of our roles. In the case of climate change and environmental health, we need to amplify each other’s voices and support each other getting to the table [and when we do this] we will find nurses talking to the supply chain and working creatively [to create solutions.]

Nurses know about that critical connection between health and the climate and speak about why hospitals should go towards a plant-based diet or why our transport systems should be increasingly transitioned towards electric vehicles.

That nurse knows something and can makes a connection that perhaps other people at that table don’t. So, we need to amplify each other, we need to pull each other up, we need to be out there, sharing each other’s posts, and articles, and lifting each other up; because if we don’t band together, we will never, as a profession, be called to the table.”

Read more: Climate Change and Evolving Threats to Public Health: The Oncology Nurse’s Role

Jesus Cepero, PhD, RN, senior vice president and chief nursing officer at Stanford Children’s Health

“There are several ways that I could think of that we help our oncology nurses not only continue to personally grow but get support because we know that resilience and burnout with our oncology nurses is difficult because of the work they do. We have a wonderful organization in this country called the American Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nursing organization, or APHON. This is a great network of oncology nurses, and they hold conferences annually. Talking with peers from around the country is a way to advocate for change in your practice and for your patient care.

In the unit, we also provide a lot of resilience training and support for our oncology nurses, understanding the stress that they are with taking care of some of the sick and sometimes dying patients. Having a program of peer support like ours here at Stanford Children’s Hospital, is something that I really value. Oncology nurses have one of the highest groups of addictions in nursing because of the situations that they have to deal with almost on a daily basis. Understanding the high degree of support our oncology nurses need is something all of us are very aware of, and very focused on.

Third, just like we take care of our patient’s mind, body, and spirit, we should be taking care of our oncology nurses the same way. We know that sometimes they need a break, and that they need to get their vacation time.We really need make an effort to allow people time so they can feel recovered. At Stanford Children’s Hospital, we provide spiritual services for our staff, and we have a psychologist to support for nurses who need some extra help as well. I say that because it’s just not about advocacy for the practice or their profession, I think advocacy for the nurses doing this type of work is just as important.”

Read more: Cepero Defines the Importance of a Holistic Approach to Pediatric Oncology Care

Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, APRN, ACNS-BC, CEN, NEA-BC, FAAN, editor-in-chief of Nursing2022 and president of the Delaware Emergency Nurses Association

“As an oncology nurse, you can advocate best through helping to enable others to grow. When you do that, you grow yourself.

Also, take risks in your profession. That does not mean that you’re going to go up and say the wrong thing at the wrong moment. It means taking over or being a part of a project team. Whatever the case, step into it. If there’s a political ladder, engage it. Go to a new class or learn a new skill. Share it as an educator or at a staff meeting. Maybe you had an interesting case that others should know about, or some [unique] adverse event occurred. Share it.

All of those things will enrich your life. And it also helps you be able to put a handout and help the next person. While the patient care is critical, in order to continue to do that care, we have got to support each other.”

Read More: Nurse Leaders Must Foster Change to Develop a Healthy Workplace Environment