Volume 7, Issue 3

How Do You Measure a Term as ONS President?

Margaret Barton-Burke, PhD, RN, FAAN
ONS President

Margaret Barton-Burke, PhD, RN, FAANIn the Broadway musical Rent, one of the songs is called “Seasons of Love.” Take some time to listen if you haven’t heard the song; the song lyrics present a way to measure “a year in the life.” So as I sit writing my first ONS Leadership Update article, I think about the ways to measure my ONS presidency. Is it measured in days? It is a two-year commitment, it has been 82 days since I took office, and I have traveled no fewer than 16 days. Or is it measured in communication? I have engaged in numerous conference calls, emails, and telephone calls.

Another way is through ONS leadership. ONS members elect a national Board of Directors, placing trust in nine members to lead our organization. In more than 200 chapters and 27 special interest groups, members elect presidents or coordinators, respectively. These elections are based on trusting in one another that the person selected will be the right person.

This trust is extended when I think of ONS's staff leadership. As an organization, ONS has had only two chief executive officers (CEOs) in its almost 40-year history, and I have been fortunate to know both of those leaders. Pearl Moore, RN, MN, FAAN, our first CEO, had a vision for a specialty oncology nursing organization. Then, when Moore retired after more than 30 years, Paula Rieger, RN, MSN, CAE, FAAN, was next to lead the organization. Now, as we welcome a third ONS CEO, Brenda Nevidjon, RN, MSN, FAAN, we envision a future that respects our past. ONS members expect and deserve nothing less.

So how will I measure my ONS presidency? By counting ONS travel and trips, by the number of meetings I chair or attend, by the members I meet and greet, or by some other metric? I may keep track of all these data—researchers have a tendency do such things—but I suspect that I will count my two-year presidency by working with amazing Boards of Directors, hiring and welcoming a new CEO, and developing a new strategic plan that positions ONS to attain its mission of promoting excellence in oncology nursing and quality cancer care and vision of leading the transformation of cancer care."


Volume 7, Issue 3

Nominate a Colleague for ONS Awards Today

Did you know that ONS offers 27 different awards each year? Did you know that in addition to cash prizes, ONS award recipients receive roundtrip airfare and lodging* to attend ONS Congress? Visit the ONS awards webpage to learn more about each award, but don’t wait too long—the nomination deadline is September 30.

*ONS employer recognition awards do not include travel or lodging for ONS Congress.

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Volume 7, Issue 3

Develop Your Moral Fitness

Crystal F. Spellman RN, BSN, OCN®

This post originally appeared on the ONS Connect blog.

"There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long-range risks of comfortable inaction.
–John F. Kennedy

One of the great satisfactions of oncology nursing is the abundance of opportunities to flex our advocacy muscles and a make a difference in the lives of our patients, institutions, or communities—to me, this equals moral fitness. If I were asked to describe some of the characteristics of nursing leaders, I would cite courage, trustworthiness, and steadfastness in the face of adversity as ranking pretty high on the list. Nursing is a profession fraught with uncertainty, and clinicians struggle to make the best possible decisions for and with their patients to achieve the best possible outcomes. Amanda Trujillo is an exemplar of one nurse with the courage to speak up on behalf of her patient despite the devastating consequences she faces.

I invite you to think back to Sociology 101 where you may have learned about Stanley Milgram’s controversial experiment examining obedience to authority. He found that “ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority.”

The findings of Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Experiment run parallel to Milgram’s. Individuals randomly assigned to the role of prisoner and guard readily slipped into these roles. The experiment was designed to run for two weeks, but because of the extreme consequences, it ended only six days later. These are extreme examples, yet they continue to illustrate very clearly the ease with which individuals may find themselves on the opposite side of the moral line they subscribe to.

Zimbardo’s current work is much more heartening. It is based on the idea that moral fitness is a skill that must be practiced regularly, in other words a lifestyle. The Heroic Imagination Project (HIP) is dedicated to helping everyone cultivate heroism for themselves. HIP proposes a model of heroism that contains four elements of moral fitness.

  • It is engaged in voluntarily.
  • It provides a service to one or more people in need or the community as a whole.
  • It involves potential risk or cost to physical comfort, social stature, or quality of life.
  • It is initiated without the expectation of material gain.

Maybe we aren’t facing terrible adversity in our practice (or maybe we are), but we have numerous opportunities to develop moral fitness every day. Maybe it involves speaking up for a long overdue practice change or finding the humanity in the room with the needy patient. Maybe it means resisting the urge to say “It will be okay” to patients who just need to know that their feelings, no matter how uncomfortable, have been heard. It could even mean standing up to stop a cycle of horizontal violence in your unit. These are the feats of strength that lie at the heart of our practice and fuel our personal leadership journeys.

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Volume 7, Issue 3

The New ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate Course Offers Nurse Leaders a Better Way to Learn

Adapted from a blog post by Lillian Donnelly RN, OCN®, BSN

Do you remember sitting through your first chemotherapy biotherapy course? I remember well the two long days, the stuffy classroom, and the frequent breaks that were needed just to maintain my attention and focus. The wealth of information and all the chemotherapy drugs and side effects seemed so overwhelming at the time. Well, good news—now you can attend the course on your own time and in your own way.

The new ONS/ONCC Chemotherapy Biotherapy Certificate Course is now offered totally online. I am a huge fan of online learning. I obtained my BSN online and am currently in the process of obtaining my MSN online. Online learning is convenient and a great way for nurse leaders to advance their knowledge. Online courses can be accessed at any time of day or night. I can sit at my computer in my pajamas, with a cup of coffee in my hand, and my cat on my lap all while attending a class. There is no travel time to classes, and I can attend class no matter the weather. I can do laundry and bake cookies while I am attending class. There are no distractions, no one else is talking, and I can learn in the quietness of my home.

Online learning allows me to proceed at my own pace, research any questions as they come up, and learn in smaller increments of time to facilitate absorption of the information. The course will be offered frequently throughout the year, and it is a 15-hour course to be completed over four weeks. That is less than four hours per week. This is a great opportunity for all nurse leaders everywhere to take the course conveniently and become certified in chemotherapy and biotherapy. Register today.

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Volume 7, Issue 3

What Defines a Leader?

Suzanne Mahon RN, DNSc, AOCN®, APNG

This post originally appeared on the ONS Connect blog.

Earlier this summer, my youngest daughter, Elaine, was nominated by her school to participate in a one-week leadership development course offered through the St. Louis chapter of the YWCA for high school seniors. She is a happy, joyful individual who is hard working, has good grades, and has been on the varsity cross country and swim teams since her freshman year. During the past two years, she has spent her spring breaks fixing houses on mission trips to Appalachia.

She applied for the program and was excited to be accepted. She rearranged her schedule that week to actively participate. It was a week of seminars, team building activities, and a service project. She did not know anyone and had to reach out of her comfort zone.

At the end of the course, parents were invited to attend the completion program. While we were driving there she told me that she was glad she had participated in the program and that she learned much. She also said it was not likely that she'd be one of the award winners because she felt she had probably been too quiet and focused. She said she had just tried to be nice to others. As a parent, I was thrilled with the news, and we talked about that on the way.

When the winner for the Future Leader Awards was called, it was Elaine. She almost did not even realize it. When I thought about it, the choice probably was not surprising. I suspect she had been respectful of everyone in the very diverse group, done what was asked of her with a smile, and worked hard. 

Being a leader is not always about being the loudest or the most noticed. It really is about three qualities Elaine displays regularly in her actions.

  • She smiles and is pleasant to be with.
  • She stays very focused on the job or activity she is doing.
  • She treats others well and as she would want to be treated.

How do you apply these leadership qualities in your daily role as an oncology nurse? Are you pleasant to be with—do you show others the warmth in your heart with your smile and actions? Do you do your job to the best of your ability and stay focused on the task assigned? Do you treat everyone with respect—those who are from similar social situations as well as those who you share almost nothing in common? We are all called to be leaders.

Check out the ONS Leadership Development online course for more information on how to improve your leadership qualities.

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ONS Leadership Update is an e-newsletter published by the
Oncology Nursing Society