Image courtesy of Duke University

Vice President Joe Biden is currently touring the country to meet with healthcare experts and research scientists to understand the challenges facing the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative announced by President Obama during his State of the Union Address. Biden held a roundtable discussion at Duke University on February 10, 2016, to discuss a number of hot-button topics in oncology. ONS Chief Executive Officer Brenda Nevidjon, RN, MSN, FAAN, sat on the panel to address the important role of oncology nurses in the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative.

“When things happen in the headlines, the nurses on the frontline are the first ones patients reach out to,” Nevidjon said. She stressed the importance of unified recommendations from oncology organizations, including a clear definition of recommended mammography guidelines. “Standardized nomenclature would be a definite advancement.” 

The vice president voiced his support of oncology nurses and nurses everywhere. “My family, and hundreds and hundreds of other families I know, owe an overwhelming debt of gratitude to nurses.” Biden’s son, Beau, passed away in 2015 after a battle with a glioblastoma. “There were times when the head oncology nurse was able to make judgments on the spot that were equal or superior to the judgments made by the oncologists.” 

Vice President Biden voiced interest in the nurse’s role to empower patients. “When nurses are much more integrated into the team, they are more able to advance that patient-centered environment,” Nevidjon said. “The patients are part of the decision-making process, not being absent from that conversation. Nursing very much facilitates that.” 

The roundtable discussion touched on a number of important topics related to oncology nurses, including access and enrollment in clinical trials, the aggregation and sharing of “big data,” addressing adolescent and young adult patient needs, the importance of screening and early detection, and the need for a multidisciplinary approach moving forward. Oncology nurses will be on the frontlines related to many of these initiatives, whether they’re practicing in a clinical setting or working on research spanning from symptom management to cancer treatment adherence. 

“I’m not naïve. I’m not looking for a silver bullet,” Biden said regarding a cure for cancer. He encouraged the panel members, and the oncology field at large, to work with him on a “quantum leap,” progress in cancer care. 

“I believe the science is ready,” Biden said. He says he aims to double or triple the rate of discovery over the next five years. Both nurse scientists and clinical practice nurses will find themselves at the forefront of this initiative in the weeks, months, and even years to come.