Taking Geriatric Oncology Nursing to the Next Level


The R25 Nursing Grant program challenges oncology nurses to rethink how to care for older patients with cancer.

A projected 73.1 million people in the United States will be age 65 and over by 2030.1 There is a growing need for oncology nurses who are also trained in the specialized needs of older adults.

City of Hope and the Cancer and Aging Research Group (CARG) are leading a national project funded by the National Cancer Institute called Geriatric Oncology: Educating Nurses to Improve Quality Care. The goal of the R25 Nursing Grant is to develop and implement comprehensive training that will provide oncology nurses with the education and tools they need to successfully care for and manage the unique needs of older adults.2

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to attend the third conference in this initiative, which was held in July 2018 in Universal City, California. Nurses from around the world came together for a 2½-day educational and interactive program. Each oncology program that applied to attend the conference sent a team of 3 nurses, including a nurse manager, a nurse educator, and a direct patient care nurse. Oncology programs were also required to develop a plan with specific goals to implement a piece of what was learned during the training sessions. Following the conference, there are also monthly conference calls and periodic updates on how each program is progressing toward its goals.

This conference was one of the most comprehensive and interactive programs I have ever attended. They gathered an impressive group of geriatric experts from around the country who immersed us in facts, statistics, case studies, trends, interventions, and resources. The speakers represented a wide range of specialties including geriatricians, oncologists, advanced practice nurses, researchers, lawyers, social workers, and educators. Each day we received education targeted at improving our ability to care for geriatric oncology patients. We learned about comprehensive geriatric assessments, assessing functional status, risks of cancer therapy toxicity, pain management, legal concerns and resources, cognitive assessment, distress, sleep management, nutrition, polypharmacy, community resources, and much more.

Each day was filled with lectures and opportunities to engage in interactive discussion and activities. We were encouraged to use what we had learned and engage with others from various backgrounds and programs. Throughout the 2½ days, each team was encouraged to consider and discuss potential goals for implementing a piece of what we had learned in our programs upon return. The experts were available and ready to guide us along the way. At the end of the training, my team left inspired and excited to get back to our facility. We are currently working on our goals that center around maintaining quality of life during chemotherapy through adequate hydration, exercise, and nutrition.

There will be one more training conference available in early 2019 as part of this grant. I highly encourage all oncology nurses who treat older adults to discuss this opportunity with their administrators. Whether you practice in an inpatient setting, rural clinic, private practice, or a regional cancer center, this training will challenge you to rethink how you care for your geriatric oncology patients. It will help you take geriatric oncology nursing to the next level, where the unique considerations specific to this patient population are integrated into the care and treatment provided.

Visit the Cancer and Aging Resources Group’s website for more information about this extraordinary program.


  • US Census Bureau. 2017 National Population Projections Tables. census.gov/data/tables/2017/demo/popproj/2017-summary-tables.html. Published March 13, 2018. Accessed July 31, 2018.
  • Cancer and Aging Research Group. mycarg.org/r25. Accessed July 27, 2018.

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