One of the primary vehicles for sharing your expertise with colleagues and peers is to publish a professional article. This process may seem daunting and difficult—an impression that no doubt deters many oncology nurses from pursuing it. But the truth is that getting published is a feasible goal. It is also one that enhances your professional development.
For your first efforts in publishing, it can be beneficial to enlist help, most commonly through mentors or coauthors.
Mentoring can be formal or informal. Formal mentors may be current or former faculty members or professionals identified through mentorship programs, while informal mentors are typically colleagues, coworkers, or friends. Think about your article topic and who in your professional or social circles shares an interest in it. Then approach them with your article idea and request guidance. The Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing offers a formal publishing mentorship program in which dyads work to produce full-length articles over 6 months.
It is important to note that mentors do not necessarily have to be in your field. A member of another health discipline might have the expertise that would enhance or round out your article. Or, perhaps you know a professional writer or editor who could provide advice for ensuring that the submission is grammatically correct and reads well. Strong writers—and strong readers—can provide feedback and suggestions, even if they do not work in oncology nursing.
Another way to obtain help is to invite a coauthor to work on the project with you. Before approaching a potential coauthor, develop a plan for the partnership. It is important to set expectations and establish roles. This includes an agreement on the order in which authors will be listed in the byline, who will be the corresponding author for the article review and revision process, and, perhaps most importantly, how the actual work will be divided up. All parties should understand that participation is required for coauthorship.
Crafting the Article
The preparation of a successful professional article requires knowledge of your audience and the selection of a meaningful topic.
What do your readers need? Write with them in mind. Consider these two questions: What are the implications of your content on your readers? How can your readers apply your content to their practice or setting?
When making your topic selection, focus on your passions. What message do you want to share? Do you have new information or perspectives to offer? Consider unique case studies, new tools or treatments, and stories about patients and families.
After you fine-tune your topic and enlist the level of help you consider appropriate, it is time to connect with a potential platform for your work. Send letters of inquiry to the journals that are appropriate for the subject matter. When drafting these letters, be sure to follow the author guidelines for each journal. The editor will reply to let you know whether you are on the right track with your planned submission.
Traditional nursing journals are not the only possible avenues for your writing. Experts recommend starting small and building to full-length articles. Consider newsletters for your hospital or community or consumer publications that would benefit from a nurse’s expertise, as well as peer-reviewed publications, which offer many categories of opportunity. For example, you can submit a Letter to the Editor to provide commentary on an issue in practice or to respond specifically to published content. Or, you can write and submit a case study that focuses on a single topic. Other possibilities are clinical reviews and updates, literature reviews, and research articles describing qualitative or quantitative studies.
After you get that first publishing experience under your belt, build on the authorship experience. After one or more coauthorship experiences, move to single or first authorship. Seek out or propose book projects or chapters. Another way to expand your authorship skills is to seek speaking engagements and membership on speaker bureaus. A bonus for faculty members is that both published work and presentations bolster academic progression and tenure.
Another way to use publishing to enhance career progression is to provide volunteer or paid services to publications that interest you. Apply to become a member of the journal’s peer-review panel, volunteer for mentorship programs, or participate on editorial boards.
The advice provided here would be incomplete if it did not include some words of caution. Not all publishing opportunities are good ones, and it is important to investigate potential publishers before committing to publication. So-called “predatory publishers” have increased in recent years. These publishers charge high author fees for minimal return, and they often use titles that are the same or similar to established publications that do not engage in these practices. Check the Directory of Open Access Journals to identify which publications are suspected of ethical misconduct.
Look for clues to credibility in any journal you consider for submission. For example, frequent typographical errors and grammar oddities are red flags that reflect poorly on a publication’s quality. Wide-ranging publication topics that are not relevant to the stated audience is also suspect. A publication time frame that is unusually quick (several weeks rather than several months) is also a cause for concern. Listen to your instincts.
ONS, as well as many other resources in the nursing community, stand ready to support you as you develop authorship skills and experience. Peer-reviewed journals published by ONS do not charge author fees. Find author guidelines for these two journals at the following:
This article is a summary of a presentation given by Ann Katz, PhD, RN, FAAN, editor of the Oncology Nursing Forum; Lisa Kennedy Sheldon, PhD, APRN, AOCNP®, FAAN, editor of the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing; and Leslie McGee, MA, managing editor at the Oncology Nursing Society, at the 2017 ONS 42nd Annual Congress.