Get to know Bertie A. Field, RN, MS, ONS Leadership Development Committee member from 2018–2021. Bertie is an oncology account manager for Jazz Pharmaceuticals in Palo Alto, CA.
How long have you been a nurse?
I became a nurse in 1983, 37 years ago. I can hardly believe it.
What led you to oncology nursing?
Prior to applying to nursing school, a friend connected me to a volunteer opportunity at the Ohio Cancer Information Service. The volunteers received training from a nurse, Elaine Glass, who was the clinical nurse specialist and nurse manager of the oncology unit at Ohio State University. She educated us about cancer prevention, signs and symptoms of various cancers, and other information about the disease I would later dedicate my career to. I remember looking at her and thinking, I want to do what she does. As a volunteer I would answer callers’ questions about the signs of cancer, provide information over the phone and in the mail, and help them locate clinical trials. I wanted to become an oncology nurse even before I became a nurse.
What was your first experience with ONS?
I worked evenings, so it was difficult for me to attend the local chapter meetings, but I had the chance to occasionally. Finally, in 1988, I took a research nurse position which allowed me to regularly attend the ONS Columbus Chapter meetings. That year I took the OCN® exam and joined the program committee. That committee, which was very warm and welcoming, made all the difference. I didn’t have any idea about how to plan or implement a program, but the amazing nurses on the committee mentored and supported me and I’m still part of the committee today.
What role has ONS served in your career?
ONS has promoted my growth and development as a leader, which gave me the confidence and skills needed to be successful in the workplace. It helped me to successfully lead my chapter twice and hold leadership roles in the society. I have had the trifecta: I have had the opportunity to serve on the boards of directors for the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC) Board, Oncology Nursing Foundation, ONS.
What relationships and connections have you made through ONS that you wouldn’t have found otherwise?
I was a member of the Clinical Trials Nurses Special Interest Group (SIG) and then became chair, which was a wonderful way to connect and collaborate. Because of this, I had the opportunity to become editor and contributor to the Manual for Clinical Trials Nursing. I also became a part of the Prevention/Early Detection SIG and wrote a chapter in a book for cancer prevention. I was also a member of the Pharmaceutical Industry Nurses SIG, which led to new job opportunities.
How did you get involved in ONS leadership?
Living in Ohio, I was blessed with many amazing mentors. My first mentor was Elaine Glass, the nurse manager who educated me at my volunteer position for the Ohio Cancer Information Service. The second was my first nursing instructor, Ruth Bope-Dangel who, like Elaine, was an ONS Columbus Chapter founder. How lucky was I?
All of the chapter leaders were amazing, and none were content to just let their talents be used locally. They wanted to share and raise up oncology nurses, not just in our chapter but also on a national level. So many served on advisory teams, task forces, and Congress planning teams; published journal articles and books; and received public education grants, awards, and scholarships, in addition to their local-level work. All of the Ohio ONS chapters formed an entity called Outreach Ohio, which met on a regular basis to share best practices from about 1992–2016 so we could all learn from each other.
My work with ONS national started with the membership advisory panel, and later I served on the Steering Council. The nominating committee asked me to run for office a few times, and eventually I agreed. I wasn’t elected the first time, but the second time I ran I was successful. While on the ONS Board of Directors, I served as the liaison for the ONCC Board. When one of the ONCC Board members passed away unexpectedly—a person who I truly had connected with—I volunteered to fill her spot and the chaired the ONCC nominating committee. When those terms were up, I had no other ONS leadership opportunities on the horizon . . . and then I got a call from Maggie Frogge about a position on the Foundation Board, so I served a term there. Finally after all that, I wanted to do one more thing: serve on the Leadership Development Committee. So, I am excited to be here, participate in all we have accomplished the past two years, and see what lies ahead.
What has been your proudest moment as an oncology nurse?
I am most proud that the Columbus Chapter’s community outreach committee that I started in 1994 is still flourishing today. It is one of the largest committees and has accomplished what I wanted it to do: provide education and support to underserved populations.
What is the biggest challenge in oncology nursing today, and how can ONS help?
I don’t know how ONS can change this mindset, but it’s a challenge for all nurses to view their careers as a profession and not a job.
What word would you say describes you?
What do you enjoy doing outside of nursing and why?
One of the many things I enjoy doing is cycling. I used to run, but running a half marathon on a torn meniscus led to a stress fracture, which ended that activity. I have always cycled, but not at much as I do now. In 2014, I founded the Columbus chapter of Black Girls Do Bike, and we now have more than 475 members. I ride every year for Pelotonia, which raises money for cancer research for the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. Participants ride anywhere from 25–200 miles, and I’ve ridden 45, 55, and 100 miles. This year is unique because of COVID-19: I will ride 100 miles again in one day and also walk 100 miles throughout July.