Keynote speaker and ONS member Rachel Walker, PhD, RN, nurse inventor and assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts, emphasized the vital role nurses play as agents of innovation and invention in practice during the opening session on Thursday, April 11, 2019, at the ONS 44th Annual Congress in Anaheim, CA.

Walker, the first nurse to be named an invention ambassador by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, stressed the importance of ensuring that nurses have a seat at the table in the important discussions related to patient care. She received the designation because of an invention project she spearheaded in the wake of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. Working together with chemists, engineers, and computer sciences, her team developed a way to filter unclean water into medically prepared IV bags for use after a natural disaster.

Her keynote remarks recounted that accidental journey from oncology nurse to nurse inventor. She recalled experiences when advocating for patients and lobbying for change that her input as a nurse was disregarded or ignored, despite being the direct line of care for her patients.

“I kept finding, for nurses, that there wasn’t even a seat at the table during some of these large conversations,” Walker said. “So now, I bring my own chair.”

From Florence Nightingale to Cicely Saunders to indigenous healers who discovered plant-based remedies for different diseases, nurses have had an extensive history of invention, Walker said.

In closing, Walker encouraged attendees to stand and repeat the credo, “A voice at the top. A voice at the table. We are all nurse inventors,” to reinforce the importance of nurse-led innovation and change for the betterment of all patients.

The Values of Oncology Nursing

ONS President Laura Fennimore, DNP, RN, NEA-BC, opened the 44th Annual Congress by saluting her fellow ONS Board of Director leaders, ONS past presidents, and the ONS Orange County host chapter, including Shirlee Koons, one of ONS’s founding advisory board members.

Fennimore’s remarks highlighted on the core values of oncology nursing, namely the values of ONS—innovation, excellence, and advocacy. She lauded oncology nursing innovation as a cornerstone to improving patient-centered cancer care.

“As oncology nurses we are inventing the future of oncology nursing every time we try to figure out a better way to care for our patients, to bring comfort and relieve suffering, and to bring hope to cancer survivors,” Fennimore said. “Oncology nurses know how to improve health care, because we understand what patients truly need and want.”

Research and Education Support From the Oncology Nursing Foundation

Oncology Nursing Foundation President Cynthia LeBlanc, EdD, celebrated the generous contributions that enabled the Foundation to award more than $27 million in research and education funding to oncology nurses. The Foundation’s Congress fundraising goal is $90,000, and it had reached $50,000 of that leading into Congress, so LeBlanc encouraged attendees to continue to contribute—no matter the amount—to keep the great work going.

Lifetime Achievement Award Winners

For 2019, ONS presented two Lifetime Achievement Awards. One was posthumously awarded to Karen Meneses, PhD, RN, FAAN, a trailblazing oncology nurse researcher and clinician who passed away unexpectedly in August 2018. Accepting the award on her behalf was her longtime colleague and significant other, Patrick McNees. He detailed Meneses’ accomplishments in oncology, including serving under two U.S. presidents, receiving the highest distinguished honors from two separate universities, and her ability to always find time to speak with patients.

McNees detailed a story where he and Meneses were on vacation in the Australian outback, and she received a call from a newly diagnosed patient with breast cancer. Meneses spent more than an hour on the phone, answering questions, addressing fears, and providing guidance to a patient she had just met over the phone.

“Karen and I managed to summarize our goal for working in health care down to nine words and four sentences,” McNees said. “Go forward. Do good. Touch lives. Change the world.”

The other ONS Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Gayle Jameson, MSN, ACNP-BC, AOCN®, for her transformative research in pancreatic cancer, chemotherapy-induced toxicities, and quality of life improvements. Jameson noted the importance of lifelong learning, tenacity in practice, and growth in relationships and collaboration.

“This award is not about me; it’s about you. We accomplish nothing in isolation. I look out into the audience and see you, my friends and colleagues, many who have made great contributions and many more who yet will,” Jameson said. “Be sure to surround yourself with those who support your passion. Find mentors who will guide and challenge you. Be involved with ONS. But also take time to care for yourself and enjoy those who are most meaningful in your life outside of work.”