Opinion: Professional Development Plans Can Help Build Nursing Resilience


Debi Fischer, MSW, BSN, BA, LCSW, RN, reviews key takeaways from a poster presented at the 2023 Oncology Nursing Society Congress.

Debi Fischer, MSW, BSN, BA, LCSW, RN

Debi Fischer, MSW, BSN, BA, LCSW, RN

During the 48th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress, Kate B. Hubbard, MSN, RN, OCN, NPD-BC; and Elaine S. DeMeyer, MSN, RN, AOCN, presented an e-poster that spoke to my career paths as an RN and LCSW. The name of the e-poster was Building Resilience by Creating a Professional Development Plan. The authors argue that creating a specific career development plan is a useful strategy to mitigate burnout. They also assert that a mentor is crucial in helping nurses develop their career plans, and that nurses help renew passion for the oncology progression. Personally, I agree with these statements.

The challenge with oncology care, in my opinion, comes from 3 factors: cancer itself, with all its’ twists and turns; the patient’s take on the disease; and the family or caregiver response to the illness. As someone who has direct caregiver experience on a personal and professional basis with cancer, this disease is unforgiving and exhausting to say the least. It is a life-changer even when the disease is in remission. Burnout in oncology nursing is common, and developing resilience strategies is important.

I will therefore look at this poster in a head-to-toe fashion, as if I were doing a physical assessment on an oncology patient.

Significance and Background

Their premise of the poster that was presented is that, despite having the expertise to care for patients facing and fighting their own mortality, nurses lack the skills to help themselves. The reason of this problem is 2-fold. First, many RNs do not have a concise growth plan for their career. Additionally, many RNs do not have a mentor to help them in their journey.

In the poster, the nurses also mentioned “the great resignation.” This occurred in 2021, when 25% of the health care employees quit their jobs during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, although this is not cited as the cause for this occurrence in the poster. In their presentation, the authors maintain that oncology nurses do not have “clear professional growth direction”and that this is a prelude to burnout.

Professional Development Plan

Hubbard and DeMeyer argue that all nurses should build a “professional development plan”and that this is essential to crafting a career in this challenging field.

In developing a professional development plan, the nurse should ask themselves “What is my goal or vision for myself,” according to the authors. Some examples of professional goals for staff nurses that they list in the poster include: obtaining a specialty certification, joining or leading a hospital committee, or helping with a patient support group. For educators, increasing presentation confidence, and creating more engaging educational materials, as well as implementing a quality improvement project, are offered as examples of professional development. For managers and directors, they note that writing for a publication or becoming a nurse entrepreneur are 2 some examples of professional growth. With all these goals, however, they emphasize that a mentor can really be helpful in helping an individual learn their new skill set and apply it in their daily practice.

The authors maintain that the professional development plan is a work in progress and is constantly evolving to show the nurse’s growth in response to what they have experienced. They want the nurse to push to the next level by acquiring new skills, and that mentorship is key to this path. The best place to get a mentor for an oncology nurse would be on the job or as part of a graduate degree program. Other options would be podcasting courses or writing courses.


To effectively evaluate their professional development plan, nurses must periodically reflect on a couple key points, according to Hubbard and DeMeyer. Nurses must ask themselves:

  • What is going well? What do I need to do differently?
  • Am I meeting my goal? Do I need to adjust my plan to meet my goal?
  • Has my goal changed and do I need to pivot my direction?

Again, the mentor can play an important role here. Mentors can help nurses recognize their own strengths and weakness, as well as celebrate career milestones along with their mentees. According to Hubbard and DeMeyer, nurses who went through speaking and writing mentorship programs experienced a “renewed passion towards the oncology profession.”


In my opinion, oncology nurses either embrace the challenges this field offers or decide it is too depressing or work intensive to remain in this area. By awakening their career goals and finding a mentor to help them, they will hopefully stay in oncology and help patients on this daunting path.


Hubbard KB, DeMeyer ES. Building resilience by creating a professional development plan. Presented at 48th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress; April 25-30, 2023; San Antonio, TX. Accessed May 23, 2023. https://ons.confex.com/ons/2023/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/12343

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