Although cancer isn’t one of the very highest causes of death in Azerbaijan, the nation still feels the impact of the global cancer burden: lung cancer and gastrointestinal cancers rank number 8 and 10, respectively, on the top 10 causes of death in the country, and their incidence is growing. As part of its commitment to sustainable international programs to support the advancement of cancer care, ONS and its members have a responsibility to disseminate knowledge to international nurses in countries like Azerbaijan. 

In September 2018, ONS and members Colleen O’Leary, MSN, RN, AOCNS®, and Jeanie Rosiak, DNP, RN, ANP-BC, AOCNP®, CBCN®, had an opportunity to do just that, when ONS was invited to organize the inaugural international conference for oncology nurses at the National Center of Oncology (NCO) in Azerbaijan. O’Leary and Rosiak presented information on cancer basics and the role of the nurse in symptom management. 

“It quickly became apparent that the nurses at the Azerbaijan NCO were very familiar with oncology nursing and had many experiences to share from their own practice,” Rosiak explained. “They were very knowledgeable about oncology and symptom management and were eager to share their expertise during case study exercises.” 

Rosiak and O’Leary said that they found the Azerbaijan nurses’ enthusiasm and engagement inspiring. 

“It’s clear that we have more similarities than differences in our respective practices,” Rosiak said. “Even though in many instances we do not speak the same language, it was easy to observe and communicate the similarities in the way we care for our patients.” 

A former republic of the Soviet Union, today Azerbaijan borders Iran, Russia, and the Caspian Sea. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency classifies it as part of the Middle East, and with oil and gas as its primary exports, the World Health Organization ranks it as an upper middle-income country.

Rosiak and O’Leary were already in the country to represent ONS in partnership with the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the American Society of Clinical Pathology to present a highly successful Multidisciplinary Cancer Management Course with NCO in the city of Baku. The two-day course focused on breast and head and neck cancers and included an ONS presentation on palliative care. 

More than 200 healthcare providers attended the conference, representing multiple disciplines and countries. The course objective was to improve cancer care with a multidisciplinary approach at the NCO and in the region. 

“It was refreshing to have nursing recognized and involved in this event,” Rosiak said. “ONS members had the opportunity to show how nursing is an essential part of the cancer care team.”

Rosiak and O’Leary extend thanks to NCO Director General Dr. Jamil Aliyev, Dr. Aziz Aliyev, and Dr. Narmin Talibova, as well as ASCO speakers Dr. Julie Gralow, Dr. David Raben, Dr. Herbert Loong, and Dr. Carlos Garcia-Etienne and the ASCO International Team.