Although last year was the 42nd Annual Congress of the Oncology Nurses Society (ONS) in Denver, it was my first ever congress. It was more than anything that I could have expected. I had experiences that I had never knew I’d have, and I made friendships that will last a lifetime. At the end of last year's Congress, I marked my calendar for next year.
There is something simply unique about the Congress gathering. It is a vast array of oncology nurses who all have the same objective: to better educate themselves so that they can do better and be better in an ever-changing field. Although it seems like a simple concept in theory, it also has its own set of complexities and challenges.
The congress gathers over just three days. In that time, there are numerous sessions that provide insight and education. Poster presentations are given by fellow nurses to help advance the field through new techniques and teachings. Doctors, nurses and many who work within the field provide knowledge that may be hard to come by without this gathering. The topics discussed range from treatments to hospital protocols, from how to treat secondary complications to dealing with patient relations in the age of social networking.
And with all of that being said, my favorite part of ONS is looking towards the future. In comparison to other oncology conferences such as ASH (American Society of Hematology) or ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology), there are not major breaking treatments being announced at ONS. That, however, does not negate the fact that this conference is where many of the nurses treating patients learn about what is new and what lies just beyond the horizon, including the new and up-and-coming treatments that are going to be prescribed to combat cancer, how to dose those regimens recommended and how to treat the numerous complications that many patients may sadly endure.
For somebody like myself, all that is ahead in the field of oncology creates a sense of wonder and optimism that a cure – and a future without cancer – can happen within my lifetime. But the reason that I feel the “forward-focused” portion of congress is so important, is because as nurses, we are the frontline when it comes to patients. While it is not our role to diagnose or prescribe our patients of treatment options, it is our job to educate ourselves and our patients about all that can occur while carrying the title of both patient and survivor.
When dosing these medications, we need to be informed of the risks and complications, so we know what to monitor for. Our patients need that education so that when they are home, they can do the same.
And no matter how isolating cancer can be for some patients, they need to know that they are not alone. An entire world of resources is out there, but without somebody to guide those affected by cancer, they may never know of this world.
So, as I get ready to board my flight to the 43rd Congress, I can't help to but to feel a sense of excitement and awe. I am awed by the fact that an entire year has passed, and the congress is already once again before us. I am excited to see all the people that I connected with last year and catch up. And as a new certified nursing assistant, heading into a job in oncology later this summer, I am eager to learn so much from those who have come before me and those just beginning their journey alongside me.