By Carrie Marvill, MSN, RN, AOCNS®

With more than 50 new U.S. Food and Drug Administration approvals for cancer therapy in 2017 alone, oncology nurses are challenged about how to keep up with all of the latest practice updates. However, the Philadelphia Area Chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society (PACONS) leadership has taken an active role in helping to ensure their chapter members are given the evidence-based cancer treatment information they need to improve their practice.

PACONS is an extra-large chapter, comprised of oncology nurses from three states and more than six health systems. Many oncology specialties are represented, from inpatient to outpatient settings, bedside nursing to navigation, and transplant to palliative care. We are a robust chapter whose mission is to give back to oncology nurses who are always giving of themselves to others. We organize monthly dinner meetings to allow the opportunity for members to connect with one another for job opportunities, professional development, and volunteer activities. In addition to networking, the focus of our chapter meetings largely is to provide education to oncology nurses. 

Educational Programs at Meetings

Over the past year, three PACONS meetings were dedicated to education on some of the newly approved oncology medications. PACONS partners with various pharmaceutical companies to provide a comprehensive review of medications, including the studies leading to therapy approval, indications, dosing, patient monitoring and management, important safety information, and resources for healthcare providers and patients.

The speakers, usually oncology nurses themselves, are able to fine tune the presentation specifically to the audience of fellow oncology nurses. Getting this information to oncology nurses has important clinical practice implications. By providing nurses with timely education, they are better equipped to assess patients for side effects or toxicity and implement interventions earlier.

Education is essential for oncology nurses who may not receive it in the workplace. Chapters have a unique ability to connect nurses with information outside of the healthcare setting, because many institutions now have policies limiting interactions with pharmaceutical company representatives.

As chapter leaders, we face the challenge of selecting educational topics that are applicable to all of the varied specialties and practice settings of our members. Oncology nurses should be encouraged to be active in their local ONS chapter and communicate with their program planning chair to select appropriate program topics in this rapidly changing specialty.