Whether as a whisper or a roar, a voice is simply a composition of unique sounds that produces a multitude of meanings. However, all voices should be heard. In particular, those who advocate for and provide care to people with cancer should bellow their voices broadly to improve quality of life and outcomes.
Oncology nurses are being invited to sit at tables of opportunities and raise our voices on the important issues that our patients and profession face. In September 2023, I was honored to sit at several tables to amplify what oncology nurses are doing to provide the most equitable holistic care possible.
The President’s Cancer Panel invited me and ONS CEO Brenda M. Nevidjon, MSN, RN, FAAN, to its stakeholder meeting to narrate how ONS is contributing to the National Cancer Plan. The panel wanted to hear directly from oncology nurses about the specific we are doing to address the plan’s eight goals. The interprofessional healthcare environment creates a catalyst in which each professional member makes significant contributions to cancer care and outcomes—particularly nurses. You can read a full report of our experience from the President’s Cancer Panel meeting in the October 2023 ONS Voice leadership message.
I also participated in a Patient Access Network (PAN) Foundation panel, “Advancing Health Equity: The Role of Providers and Patient Advocates,” at the Healthcare Advocate Summit. I joined Kim Baich, chief diversity and health equity officer at PAN Foundation, and Trish Dicker, lead director of sales and equity operations for CVS Health, to discuss ways how nurses, other healthcare providers, and patient advocates can play a role in advancing equitable health outcomes for everyone. Social drivers of health, including socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, gender identity, and geographic location, can affect more than 80% of health outcomes. By understanding health disparities and how nurses, other healthcare providers, and patient advocates can address inequities, we can ignite change and improve health outcomes for those who have been historically marginalized.
Finally, I joined the Measuring and Addressing Health-Related Social Needs in Cancer, a National Comprehensive Cancer Network Policy Summit, for a panel discussion, “Moving Beyond the Checkbox: Practice Solutions for Discussion Based Screening.” Our conversation highlighted implementing and overcoming challenges to practice processes to screen for and address health-related social needs. We also talked about best practices and challenges in discussion-based screening.
My seat at those three tables provided an important platform to use my voice to advocate for our patients and profession. An invitation to a seat is significant; however, if you are seated without an opportunity to speak, ask for a microphone. Our voices spark dialogue that ignites positive changes, creating a space for endless opportunities.