Get to know Darcy Burbage, DNP, RN, AOCN®, CBCN®, ONS director-at-large from 2020–2023 an oncology clinical nurse specialist from Newark, DE.
How long have you been a nurse?
I’ve been an oncology nurse for over 30 years. I began my career as an LPN after graduating from a vocational high school and finished my DNP over a year ago.
What led you to oncology nursing?
In my opinion, you don’t choose oncology nursing, it chooses you. I had planned on a career as a CRNA, but when I finished my LPN program, the only job available was on the inpatient oncology unit. I immediately fell in love with oncology nursing and can’t imagine working or doing anything else!
What was your first experience with ONS?
I was invited to my local chapter meeting by my nurse manager. At that meeting, I met colleagues from all subspecialty areas of oncology-home care, hospice, clinical trials, radiation oncology, and those working in private practices which really opened my eyes to the many opportunities available in oncology nursing, and from there, I volunteered to serve as newsletter editor and was elected to the board of the Delaware Diamond Chapter of ONS.
What role has ONS played in your career?
There is no other organization that has influenced my career as profoundly as ONS. Because of ONS, I’ve been able to grow in my professional career by being offered opportunities to develop my leadership skills and become involved in initiatives that directly influence and impact oncology nursing in order to continue to provide the highest quality care to the patients that we are privileged to care for. Thanks to ONS, I’ve presented nationally and internationally on various oncology nursing topics, have authored book chapters, online courses, recorded a podcast, as well as been asked to serve on interdisciplinary teams through ASCO, the National Navigation Roundtable and the National Cancer Policy Forum. I was also invited to attend the Cancer Moonshot Summit at the White House as well as participate in several ONS Advocacy Days on Capitol Hill.
What relationships/connections have you made through ONS (e.g., mentors, proteges, colleagues to partner with on work) that you wouldn’t have found otherwise?
As a result of my involvement with ONS, I’ve been able to work with and be mentored by many distinguished oncology nursing leaders throughout my career. There are too many to list, so I’ll just name a few. Susan Schneider, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, ONS Past President who introduced herself to me at ONS Congress which led me to applying to Duke University for my DNP. She became my advisor, mentor, and colleague. Cindi Cantril, MPH, RN, OCN®, one of the founding members of ONS, whose guidance, support, and confidence in my abilities helped me successfully chair a three day oncology nursing conference.
How did you get involved in ONS leadership?
There was a request for a volunteer to serve as the contact person for the Breast Care Focus Group. At the time, I was working as the Breast Care Nurse Navigator/Clinical Nurse Specialist in our Breast Center and was looking for opportunities to connect with other breast care nurses as mine was a new role in a new department. So, I applied and was selected. From there, I met other breast care nurses and we applied for the focus group to become a Special Interest Group (SIG), where I became the inaugural chair, which led to opportunities to serve on various committees, task forces, and then as Chair of the SIG’s which transitioned to the ONS Communities, before I was elected to the ONS Board of Directors.
What has been your proudest moment as an oncology nurse?
Being nominated by my peers and selected as a recipient of the Pearl Moore Making a Difference Award was as an honor. To have received this award, named after a pioneer in oncology nursing, was to me, a tribute to the many colleagues who have mentored and supported me throughout my career as well as the patients who allowed me into their lives.
What is your biggest challenge in oncology nursing today? (And how can ONS help?)
Ensuring that oncology nurses have the necessary education and resources to continue to provide the highest quality care in this changing healthcare environment is a big challenge. Technology, including telehealth, mHealth, Artificial Intelligence, and virtual reality will require that oncology nurses have the necessary skills to successfully adapt and use these new technologies to improve patient care. ONS will need to continue their work to proactively monitor trends and take action to ensure that oncology nurses have the necessary resources to meet these rapidly evolving technology trends in healthcare. Becoming more “high tech” while remaining “high touch” is fundamental to oncology nursing.
What word would you say describes you?
What was your best travel experience and why?
Although all of my travel experiences have been amazing, I would have to say my trip to Italy was probably the best. It was a last minute invitation to travel to Milan and Rome two weeks before Christmas. The country is beautiful at any time of the year, but the energy of the holiday season, the Italian people (and of course, the food and coffee!), as well as the decorations of these picturesque cities, especially their churches, was stunning! Just thinking about this trip brings back such good memories. I know I’m not alone when I say that I can’t wait to travel to again!