ONS Past President Sandra Schafer Leaves a Legacy of Compassionate Leadership
ONS Past President Sandra Lee Schafer, RN, MN, AOCN®

From her patients to her colleagues to the entire cancer care community, ONS Past President Sandra Lee Schafer, RN, MN, AOCN®, made everyone she touched feel special, inspiring and motivating a generation of oncology nurses in advancing care for patients with cancer. Schafer passed away on December 7, 2018, but her legacy of compassion and care lives on.

“Sandy was an enthusiastic and passionate ONS member and leader both locally and nationally,” ONS Chief Executive Officer Brenda Nevidjon, MSN, RN, FAAN, said. “She is the first ONS president we’ve lost, and we will miss the connections and positivity she brought to our world on a personal level.”

Schafer served in several capacities on the ONS Board of Directors and led it as president from 1993–1994. During her presidency, the Society began the FIRE® (Fatigue Initiative Through Research and Education) program, the largest ONS- and Oncology Nursing Foundation-sponsored research and education project to address a frequent, critical, and debilitating side effect of cancer and its treatment. ONS also initiated new task forces that year to address chemotherapy competencies, ethics, and leadership. Schafer was a member of the Oncology Nursing Foundation Board of Trustees from 1988–1991 and 1993–1994 and had been certified through the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation continuously since 1986.

She was deeply involved in the local cancer care community as a founding member of the ONS Pittsburgh Chapter, serving as its first president from 1985–1986 and in other roles in later years. In 1994, Schafer cofounded Camp Raising Spirits as part of a chapter project to provide a weekend retreat for adults with cancer and a guest to offer respite and support during the stress of treatment. The camp celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2018.

As a true leader, Schafer knew the importance of encouragement and recognition in motivating others. “I’ve never known anyone more kind and generous with her time,” ONS Past President Carlton Brown, RN, PhD, AOCN®, NEA-BC, FAAN, said. “I always received congratulatory notes from her about my publications; even if it was a controversial issue, Sandy always had a kind word. Our organization and all of us are better for knowing her.”

Schafer’s more recent work had moved into palliative care with the Hospice and Palliative Care Nurses Association (HPNA), also headquartered in Pittsburgh.

“In her role as director of credentialing services for the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC), Sandy helped develop and lead HPCC’s seven certification programs over the past 14 years,” Sally Welsh, MSN, RN, NEA-BC, chief executive officer of HPNA, HPCC, and Hospice and Palliative Nurses Foundation, said. “Sandy always exhibited a sense of pride and passion for nursing and the value of certification. She was well respected throughout the nursing and certification fields. In addition to her expert nursing skills and vast knowledge, Sandy was a kind and friendly person. We will cherish her memory and celebrate her numerous contributions to nursing, certification, and patient care.”

The essence of Schafer’s life and work might be contained in her own words from a 1993 president’s message: “As nurses, we are excellent caregivers. Let us think about that care. The work always gets done somehow. Perhaps we must first redefine the work. The most important activity, the most beneficial for everyone involved, is to truly ‘be there’ for someone. Let us each give the greatest gift of all—the gift of ourselves.”

Funeral information and further details can be found here.