Margaret Bevans, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, program director and clinical nurse scientist at the National Institutes of Health’s Nursing Research and Translational Science department, detailed her own journey and empowered nurses to amplify their impact during her Mara Mogensen Flaherty Memorial lecture at the 43rd Annual Congress in Washington, DC.
“This lecture has been part of Congress since 1982, reaching all oncology nurses. Talk about power,” she started. Bevans highlighted three tools oncology nurses should use to funnel that power and amplify their impact:
- Activate networks
- Understand evidence
- Prioritize self-care
“You already have the power, now we will talk about how to make it stronger,” she said.
Networks require a multidisciplinary team in practice, including two or more people who interact dynamically, interdependently, and adaptively to achieve a common goal. “All members of the team need to collaborate, communicate effectively, and stay open to different ways of thinking,” she said. “As a better communicator, you can be a stronger advocate for patients,” she said. “Nurses have a lot to say, but our voices are not always strong, and buy-in from more senior colleagues can be difficult. Focus on your specialty setting.”
When collaborating for scientific purposes, the team needs to agree on certain aspects of the project. “Put process before outcome,” said Bevans.
Nursing is a practice discipline, and evidence-based care is a cornerstone. Nurses must carefully consider relevant data, the clinician’s own experience, and a knowledge of patient preferences. “Only then can nurses provide the best care,” she said, describing nurses as the “hub” of care coordination to ensure patient safety and treatment quality.
Although nurses spend most time caring for others, she also stressed prioritizing self-care as a way to improve patient care: exercise, eat well, stop smoking, limit alcohol intake, strengthen personal relationships, and find happiness through mindfulness. She discussed the American Nurses Association’s (ANA’s) Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation (HNHN) and its grand challenge that seeks to encourage nurses to make more healthy life decisions, because nurses play such an important role in the health of the nation—and world.
A recent executive report from the HNHN appraisal indicated some areas of good health practices among nurses—94% said they do not smoke. But Bevans said other areas were a concern: 82% reported significant levels of risk for workplace stress, about half were bullied in the workplace, and more than 50% had a body mass index greater than 27.6 kg/m2.
“I believe we can do better, and so does ANA,” she said. “It’s your moment to take action. Focus on using your power to promote a healthy lifestyle.”
During her talk, Bevans recalled her own cancer journey following diagnosis of breast cancer in January 2015. Because of her background in nursing, she said she had an insatiable appetite to gather information and data on her cancer. The treatment decision-making phase was stressful, she noted, “not just on me, but on my husband and two daughters.”
Having studied quality of care among patients with cancer for many years, Bevans wanted kept quality of life in mind in addition to treatment impact on disease progression and relapse. She also mentioned having an advocate who encouraged her to hold her ground on controlling her health outcomes and treatment decisions, which she ultimately did when she decided to undergo a mastectomy.