National Cancer Institute NCI Cancer Bulletin: A Trusted Source for Cancer Research News
July 24, 2012 • Volume 9 / Number 15

Guest Commentary by Dr. Mary M. Gullatte

Oncology Nurses: Leading from the Future

Dr. Mary M. Gullatte
Dr. Mary M. Gullatte

In my 34-year career as an oncology nurse, I’ve had the opportunity to witness firsthand the dramatic changes that have shaped the current state of cancer care. For instance, the first, second, and now a third generation of targeted therapies have changed cancer care significantly, as has the recognition that good patient care extends well beyond treating tumors and should continue long after active treatment is complete.

Cancer care is now a highly complex undertaking, and with the new advances in genomics, personalized therapies, bioscience, pharmacology, social science, and health information technology, it’s likely to become even more so.

As president of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), an organization with more than 35,000 members, I believe oncology nurses are prepared to lead across a multitude of settings: academia, research, and clinical service. In fact, we already are!

To shape its future activities, ONS recently issued a 2012–2016 Strategic Plan. In it, we talk about “leading from the future,” meaning having the vision of what cancer care needs will be 5 years from now. That vision will enable us to better prepare nurses to lead in the new health care future and to design care models to boldly embrace that future with confidence and success. (See the box below.)

Nurses play a crucial role in actively improving efficiency, cost effectiveness, safety, and quality to promote positive patient outcomes. The nurse is an integral member of the professional provider team, whose members must work together effectively to connect with patients and their families in a true partnership to achieve the best overall patient outcomes.

This special issue of the NCI Cancer Bulletin focuses on some of the trends and issues in oncology nursing today, including how physicians and nurses can partner together to improve care for cancer patients, the role of nurse navigators, and how nurses can help family members caring for cancer patients.

On the research side, bioethics is an issue that is growing in importance, particularly for oncology nurses involved in clinical trials. Finally, although caring for cancer patients can be rewarding, it can also cause burnout and compassion fatigue among nurses, an issue that more care centers are beginning to address.

By profession and preparation, oncology nurses promote evidence-based practices and patient- and family-centered care to enhance patient education, treatment, survivorship, and positive outcomes of care. We are preparing for and are ready to go boldly into the future to achieve a better health care system for our patients and the oncology interprofessional provider team.

Dr. Mary Magee Gullatte
President, Oncology Nursing Society

Institute of Medicine Recommendations: The Future of Nursing

The new health care future will require a robust, stable, and educated nursing workforce. To this end, ONS embraces the Institute of Medicine's (IOM's) The Future of Nursing report, published in 2010, and its four key messages:

  1. Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training.
  2. Nurses should achieve higher levels of education and training through an improved education system that promotes seamless academic progression.
  3. Nurses should be full partners, with physicians and other health professionals, in redesigning health care in the United States.
  4. Effective workforce planning and policymaking require better data collection and improved information infrastructure.