One of the many lessons we’ve learned since early 2020 is to hope for the best but prepare for the worst. When COVID-19 vaccination rates climbed and infection rates declined in spring 2021, we all confidently looked to September for a return to prepandemic activities. However, the Delta variant’s rapid transmission in July and resulting surge in infection rates paused our plans as the United States reevaluated the safety of a full return without restrictions.

Nancy Houlihan, MA, RN, AOCN®, ONS President
Nancy Houlihan, MA, RN, AOCN®, ONS President

Just like your health systems and other work settings, ONS prioritizes safety and follows regional recommendations for expanding activity at the ONS office in Pittsburgh, PA. The ONS Board of Directors is excited to hold its first in-person meeting since February 2020, but our intent to resume business travel has contingency plans as conditions evolve. Although our virtual meetings have seamlessly continued ONS’s work for the past 18 months, in-person social contact would enhance our engagement as we support our members, but we are prepared to pivot our travel plans if required.

Through the pandemic restrictions, we’ve seen a new normal emerge. For example, the benefits of virtual and telehealth for employers, employees, and, in many circumstances, patients, has standardized flexible scheduling for appropriate roles and settings. Likewise, ONS has remained nimble in response to member needs. Leveraging technology and expanding our online courses, pandemic resources, and virtual conferences allowed ONS to continue our mission of providing nurses with the support to ensure excellence in oncology nursing practice and cancer care delivery. Virtual participation has been high, and we intend to continue many of those offerings beyond the pandemic because we recognize how well they meet your needs.

The American Society of Association Executives, in which ONS participates, conducted a member survey in December 2020 to identify outcomes from how societies adapted to the pandemic. On questions related to value of association membership, 91% of respondents recognized the importance of being part of an association (a 6% increase from the previous survey), with more than half reporting that they belong to more than one association. Top reasons cited were the opportunities to learn career skills or obtain certification, network with other members, and benefit from the association’s advocacy work.

In the survey responses, advocacy for pandemic-related industry issues (e.g., personal protective equipment shortages in the healthcare industry) was particularly important. Even more critical during the pandemic to 46% of respondents was the ability to network through the association’s digital platforms and social media, and many indicated a strong preference for a virtual self-serve member community like the ONS Communities. The majority also reported that participating in a virtual event (like this month’s ONS BridgeTM conference) led to the most meaningful connections. Virtual events can reduce traditional barriers such as travel, time, and expenses, and trend reports indicate that the audience for virtual events has grown as much as 80%.

ONS is leading oncology nursing practice and responding to members’ needs as we learn more about how the pandemic’s outcomes affect cancer and patient care. Use ONS’s Learning Libraries and publications, attend our ONS Bridge virtual conference this month; and participate in the virtual ONS Communities to network, share experiences, and provide feedback to help us understand your work experience so we can better support you.