Get to know Michele E. Gaguski, MSN, RN, AOCN®, NE-BC, APN-C, ONS Leadership Development Committee member from 2019–2022. Michele is the cancer program administrator for Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson Health New Jersey in Sewell.
How long have you been a nurse?
I have been a nurse for 30 years.
What led you to oncology nursing?
I had the unique opportunity to complete a six-week rotation at a major cancer hospital during my initial nursing education. I never looked back; it was truly a calling for me. I feel blessed to engage in this healing work.
What was your first experience with ONS?
I attended a meeting with my local chapter, Southern Jersey Shore, and was introduced to a wonderful and dedicated team of nurses. I am fortunate to have developed some lifelong friendships and mentors from this level of involvement.
What role has ONS served in your career?
ONS is the epitome of a visionary organization that is committed to quality patient care through support and continuous professional development of oncology nurses. Through my involvement in ONS on the national, regional, and local levels, I have been able to network, learn, contribute, and grow as a professional nurse.
What relationships and connections have you made through ONS that you would not have found otherwise?
I have met so many nurses who became close colleagues and friends through ONS. These people have inspired me to grow and encouraged me to embrace new challenges. I feel so blessed that I have developed some close friendships and met people who have made a positive impact on my life.
How did you get involved in ONS leadership?
I started by volunteering for local chapter leadership roles (e.g., newsletter editor, secretary, chapter president), and then I applied to be an item writer for the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation’s Oncology Certified Nurse exam. This was a very insightful and exceptional learning experience for me. I enjoyed being involved at the national level with such a dynamic organization, so I started to apply for other ONS volunteer opportunities (e.g., project teams, ONS News and ONS Connect). I also applied and was accepted to the ONS Leadership Development Institute, and I served on the Board of Directors as a director-at-large from 2009–2012.
What has been your proudest moment as an oncology nurse?
Receiving the Pearl Moore “Making a Difference” Award will always remain close to my heart, because the nurse who nominated me is a treasured mentor, friend, and colleague. To be recognized with an award that represents the foundational leader of an organization like ONS has always meant so much to me; it still humbles me to this day, and I try to live up to “making a difference” in my life each day.
What is your biggest challenge in oncology nursing today, and how can ONS help?
Oncology nursing is challenged with advocacy. Key to the solution is leadership development and having more nurses at the tables where decisions are made. ONS supports nurses in developing confidence and competence for these roles. Whether in the workplace, academia, internationally, or their own communities, nursing professionals have knowledge and experience to share and can be thoughtful contributors to make a difference in not only cancer care but health care overall. Nurses are on the front lines with people diagnosed with a critical illness and walk with them throughout their recovery and survivorship; we are advocates in every sense of the word and engage in this level of work daily without even acknowledging that we are doing it. The time is now for others in the world to recognize nursing professionals for their knowledge, skills, leadership, and wisdom to foster the continuous pursuit of quality health care for all.
What word would you say describes you?
It’s hard to pick just one. I’d say I’m driven, passionate, energetic, caring, supportive, positive, and someone who goes the extra mile.
What was your best travel experience and why?
I love to travel and have been fortunate to see some extraordinary places. One of my best experiences was when I traveled to Russia with Past President Judy Lundgren, RN, MSN, with People to People International. It was an amazing opportunity to learn about nursing and health care in that country and to explore the culture and beauty of Russia, including seeing the Russian ballet. I met a fellow nursing colleague on the trip, and our friendship remains close to this day.