As we enter the final few months of 2020, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Year of the Nurse and Midwife, I find myself thinking about the theme that we had for our 45th Annual ONS CongressTM: Purpose, Power, Passion. WHO’s intent in designating the year was to elevate nursing globally and showcase the many roles that nurses have in health care. In the United States, Gallop surveys consistently rank nurses as the most trusted profession, but our colleagues in other countries do not have a similar means of recognition.
I think our theme resonated so well with the focus of WHO’s goal for the Year of the Nurse, and ONS Congress would have been a place to celebrate it. However, then the pandemic arrived and in-person events disappeared.
Although we did not hold our annual Congress for the first time in our history, we are celebrating a successful ONS BridgeTM virtual conference that also showed the purpose, power, and passion that I believe ground all nurses globally. We have seen examples of each in action during the many months of the pandemic. These examples from countries around the world have elevated nursing and shown the many roles that nurses have in health care.
Whether you think of purpose as an objective, goal, aim, aspiration, or dream, I believe that we are united in our purpose to make a difference in the lives of others. Each of you may do that differently: directing the care of patients and families, preparing the next generation of oncology nurses, or building the evidence for our practice. During the pandemic, oncology nurses have led changes in care delivery, implemented safety measures, and found solutions to being present with patients. Technology, ever present in our professional and personal lives, expanded how we connect with patients, going to them rather than them traveling to our centers. Our ONS Congress annually showcases how you make a difference. How wonderful we were able to create that virtually with ONS Bridge, even though many of you would have preferred to be together.
We often do not understand the power that we have as nurses. The difference we make individually extends far beyond the patient, student, or colleague whose life we change. Each of us has the power to create a ripple effect. Our collective voices also have the power to influence others. Many ONS chapters have embraced advocacy as a core action and have developed relationships with elected officials, consistently communicating key issues related to access to care for patients with cancer. How exciting for chapter members to educate an elected official and then see that official sign on to key cancer care legislation. As one or many, we must also use our stories, expertise, and voice to address disparities in cancer care and bring needed change.
Our passion for the profession is often what sustains us through difficult times. What the pandemic has reinforced is that to fuel our passion and remain resilient, we must attend to our own well-being. Fear for your own or your family’s health while caring for patients during the pandemic or the isolation of working from home both affect physical and mental health. We experience our passion for oncology nursing during the ONS Congress opening session each year, and although it was not the same virtually, we felt it in other ways. Additionally, ONS’s new Nursing Self-Care Learning Library connects you to resources to support your passion and resilience.
Looking back, our 2020 ONS Congress theme—Purpose, Power, Passion—was particularly prescient. Those three words are so important to explain who we are and what we do. Perhaps they are not only a theme for ONS Congress; perhaps they should be our guide for taking action and making changes to benefit our patients, our communities, and our profession.