“Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have,” Margaret Mead wrote in The World Ahead: An Anthropologist Anticipates the Future.

What Started ONS?

After the first National Cancer Nursing Research Conference in 1973, 20 oncology nurses discussed the need for a national organization to support their profession. Two years later in 1975, ONS was incorporated. It is impressive to reflect on how this professional association, which has evolved into a robust membership of more than 35,000 members and represents a staggering 100,000 oncology nurses, started with just 20 nurses. Furthermore, we have observed the impactful support and growth of two other entities: the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation and the Oncology Nursing Foundation. Without their creation, there would be no certifications in oncology nursing or dedicated funding to support oncology nursing research, scholarships, and educational opportunities.

Next year is poised to be particularly momentous as we commemorate ONS’s 50th anniversary. We are excited to celebrate this significant milestone at the 2025 ONS Congress®, where we will spotlight numerous pivotal moments in the history of oncology nursing, honor distinguished oncology nurses, and, most importantly, celebrate each member’s invaluable contribution to the organization.

Reflecting on Progress

Every oncology nurse has embarked on a unique journey, yet despite the diversity of our experiences, we’ve collectively navigated the same transformative shifts in cancer care. We’ve witnessed remarkable progress in treatments, technology, and survival outcomes. Reflecting on our shared history, many of us can vividly recall the drugs and supportive care treatment we once administered and the improvements we’ve made in symptom management. As a new oncology nurse, I often heard my colleagues reminisce about the limited options for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV), relying solely on lorazepam and witnessing patients suffering with this challenging side effect. Today, we’re fortunate to have an array of agents tailored to address CINV based on the specific treatment regimens, exemplifying the role of oncology nurses in administering these drugs.

We have also seen the transformation of oncology nurses, transcending from their traditional bedside role to become integral contributors in many areas of cancer care. Their involvement spans diverse areas such as navigation, cancer prevention, ambulatory care, infusion, research, survivorship, information technology, education, and much more. Notably, the advanced practice nurse has emerged as an important role that has filled many gaps in cancer care. This evolution underscores the pivotal role of oncology nursing in advancing and enhancing the landscape of cancer care—a role deserving of celebration.

How Can We Continue the Legacy of the 20 Founding Nurses?

The generations that follow those visionary oncology nurses have a responsibility to build on their foundation. Here are some ways that we can attain that goal:

  • Foster the growth of our profession by mentoring new oncology nurses. Supporting, retaining, and actively mentoring new career oncology nurses are essential steps to ensure a continuous supply of skilled and dedicated professionals for the future.
  • Contribute through giving. Your support, whether through time, philanthropy, or expertise plays a vital role in elevating the foundation of our profession and ensuring its resilience.
  • Pursue certification. Elevating our standards and expertise through certification not only enhances individual competence but it indicates to all we care for, our dedication to excellence in oncology care.
  • Continue to learn, advocate, and collaborate to improve cancer care.

Together, We Can Continue to Succeed as an Organization

United in purpose, we can achieve success together. Henry Ford wisely stated, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.” Let’s persist in our collective journey as an organization, making a lasting impact in cancer care. Oncology nurses’ significance cannot be overstated; they are the foundation of our future and the success of ONS.