Fifty years holds volumes of history.

As teams of volunteers and staff plan for ONS’s 50th anniversary next year, they’ve delved into boxes of archived materials at ONS headquarters to uncover key moments, people, projects, and resources to showcase throughout 2025. They reviewed archived journals, newsletters, magazines, books, conference syllabi, letters, photographs, and other artifacts. Who still has their mugs or wine glasses from the early ONS Congresses® in their cupboards?

The celebration of an organization’s anniversary recognizes the past and the journey to the present. It can also be instrumental in ensuring the organization’s future. Fundamental to the sustainability of any organization is its purpose—why it exists. It is not the same as a mission statement, which builds on the purpose. As stated in its incorporation papers, ONS’s purpose is “exclusively to promote the interests of nurses and nursing professionals involved in oncology-related matters.” For half a century, ONS’s purpose has not changed.

Building on the why, a mission statement describes what the organization does and for whom and is typically action oriented. For ONS, it guides our strategic priorities, advocacy and research agendas, collaborations with other organizations, and the actions that the ONS Board of Directors considers and staff undertake. The ONS mission has seen minor changes through the years but has remained close to today’s statement: “To advance excellence in oncology nursing and quality cancer care.” You can see how our mission statement incorporates our purpose.

During times of stress and chaos, the mission statement is the north star of the organization. For example, during the COVID-19 pandemic’s early phases, the Board was mindful of the mission statement as it made decisions such as cancelling Congress and moving to a virtual meeting as well as issuing guidance on chemotherapy personal protective equipment during the supply shortages. For the latter, it meant modifying a long-standing practice.

Given the current state of the healthcare environment and trends in cancer care, the Board and staff leaders keep our mission statement and purpose ever present in discussions. They recognize that members trust them to make decisions that will sustain the organization well into the future and provide resources for their practice. Member input is essential to the Board, and I hope that you were able to complete the recent member survey. It captures not only what is important to you about ONS but also about what is happening in your practice setting. That information, coupled with data from other sources, allows the Board to ensure that its decisions on priorities and projects are evidence based.

Fifty years ago, a small group of oncology nurses connected because they had common experiences and educational needs. They saw a future for an organization to promote the interests of nurses in oncology and acted to create that organization, incorporating it in 1975. Through decades of volunteer leaders, ONS has become the professional home for oncology nurses, a trusted advocacy voice, a valued partner, and it has welcomed generation after generation of oncology nurses. ONS is an organization conceived by oncology nurses, led by oncology nurses, and prepared to serve oncology nurses for decades to come.