Formation of an Oncology Nurse Leader Council Promotes Frontline Nurse Engagement


Elizabeth Loach, MSN, APRN, CNS, AGCNS-BC, OCN, highlights how the Oncology Nurse Leader Council at her institution led to frontline nurse task-force engagement.

Elizabeth Loach, MSN, APRN, CNS, AGCNS-BC, OCN

Elizabeth Loach, MSN, APRN, CNS, AGCNS-BC, OCN

The development of an Oncology Nurse Leader Council (ONLC) at the Allina Health Cancer Institute (AHCI) in Minnesota has helped elevate the nursing voice and move new initiatives forward, according to Elizabeth Loach, MSN, APRN, CNS, AGCNS-BC, OCN.

All oncology nursing specialties in the AHCI network are represented by the council, which Loach noted will be led by the future director of nursing for AHCI in a poster which was presented during the 48th Annual Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Congress. After the approval of the Nursing Strategic Plan, task forces aligning with the AHCI’s pillars, Care, People, and Patient Experience, were developed with each focusing on 1 or 2 initiatives supporting the plan.

During development, one of the nursing strategic planning sessions focused on preparing nurse leaders to engage in a process with their teams ensuring bidirectorial communication with frontline staff ensuring all voices in the organization are heard. A second session was focused on reviewing key themes from nurse leaders and developing initiatives, as well as deliverables, to address the gaps that were identified. In addition, nursing scorecards were developed and disseminated through the institution to track and measure success.

“Through the oncology nursing structure, ONLC has been able to move initiatives forward including a system approach to oncology quarterly nursing education, nurse well-being, and certification support,” Loach said. “The systemwide structure allows for broad communication and the sharing of ideas.”

“ONLC has grown since its initiation to include quality, pharmacy, learning and development, and others as needed,” she added. “Through ONLC, the oncology nursing voice is elevated and I am thrilled to see what [comes] next.”

Loach, a clinical nurse specialist at AHCI—which is part of Allina Health— spoke with Oncology Nursing News after the presentation, she discussed the process of implementing the intervention’s ideas to promote further communication.

Oncology Nursing News: How did you evaluate the intervention?

Loach: We evaluated our intervention in a couple of different ways. The first was [that] we created a nursing specific scorecard where we tracked different metrics looking at nursing influences. Second, we evaluated our intervention by looking at the deliverables that each of our task forces was putting forward. That was how we were able to quantify what was coming out of the ONLC.

What were results from the formation of the ONLC?

Anecdotally, we’ve been able to move initiatives forward through ONLC that were not possible before it. The surprising thing to me is that I often feel like when our forum gets together, when the whole council comes together, that 1 hour is not enough. It feels like we need more time there's always such excellent engagement and conversation [which is] not really a surprising finding, but something that I noticed.

What can colleagues takeaway from this project?

Three takeaways come to mind for me. The first is to consider who the connections are for your oncology nursing structure, whether that’s your quality department, learning and development, education department, or even other system wide oncology or nursing structures, so that you can keep [everyone] in the loop and ensure that all of your work is aligned.

The second one is critical—ensure you have that frontline nurse engagement, whether in the development of the strategic plan [or otherwise in the process]. For us that was using the catch ball process and certainly, when it comes to developing the deliverables, you want it to be products or interventions that nurses need, so our task forces are made up of frontline nurses. Getting that frontline nurse engagement is crucial.

The third item is when you think about gathering your group, or gathering your counsel or committee, consider keeping your meeting format flexible, especially if you’re [operating] at a system level so that you can get that large group together and get that attendance. We’ve kept our meeting formats virtual so that we can have that system-wide engagement.


Loach E, Koroscik M, and Ross M. Executing a system wide oncology nursing strategic plan. Poster presented at: 48th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress; April 26-30, 2023; San Antonio, Texas. Accessed May 4, 2023.

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