This Oncology Nursing Month, Access the Value of ONS Local Chapters

May 25, 2020 by Samantha Karam Former ONS Staff Writer

In honor of Oncology Nursing Month ( this May, board members from five ONS chapters ( across the United States shared why ONS means so much to them. 

Lynda Chambers, RN, MSN-NE, OCN®, Cape Fear ONS Chapter President 

Chambers joined ONS more than 25 years ago to continue her education and network with other oncology professionals. She is the manager of regional nursing continued education at South East Area Heath Education Center ( in Wilmington, NC, and is her chapter's ( president from 2018–2020. 

“Our unit director recommended that we consider becoming certified to demonstrate our competency, not only for our organization but also to the patients we serve,” Chambers said. “Joining ONS was the most realistic way to learn about certification and to facilitate testing.” 

The Cape Fear Chapter in southeastern North Carolina has 60 members, drawing professionals from several surrounding counties. Chambers said her chapter is very active in the community; some of the work they’ve done included partnering with local lymphedema specialists and collecting gift boxes during the holidays for the area’s homeless population. Recently, the chapter coordinated the Cape Fear oncology nurses seminar, where members networked with more than 20 vendors and participated in free nursing continuing professional development activities. 

“Caring for patients with cancer requires dedication as well as a continuing effort to remain up to date in evidence-based practice. Participation in ONS helps facilitate this and so much more,” she said. “I was a recipient of a master’s scholarship ( from the Oncology Nursing Foundation ( in 2018. My hope is to facilitate the continuing education of our current nurses as well as encourage others to enter the field.” 

Hayley Dunnack, BSN, CMS-RN, OCN®, Central Connecticut ONS Chapter Programs Committee Chair 

Dunnack joined ONS in 2014 as a new graduate nurse working on an inpatient oncology unit and has been her chapter’s ( programs committee chair for five years. She’s now a PhD student at University of Connecticut's School of Nursing ( in Storrs and an RN at Hartford Healthcare Cancer Institute (

“My hospital manager, Stacey Barber, directed me to ONS and two colleagues, Gean Brown and MaryKate Eanniello, encouraged me to join the board,” Dunnack said. “When it came time to obtain my chemotherapy certification, ONS was a critical resource. My institution encouraged oncology nurses to join ONS and its accompanying local chapter. I went to my first meeting and was hooked.” 

The Central Connecticut Chapter has about 350 members. Dunnack said her chapter’s priority for 2020 is giving back to its members through self-care events, joint advocacy events with the Connecticut Nurses Association, and expanded education events, like the annual OCN® review course. In addition to offering new programs, Central Connecticut collaborates with the Southwest Connecticut ONS Chapter on a joint chapter symposium, which draws more than 100 oncology nurses from across the state and surrounding areas. 

“ONS has shaped who I am as a nurse today through its incredible educational and mentorship opportunities. Having the support of my chapter and mentor has been integral to my success in the PhD program,” Dunnack said. “Nurses are truly lifelong learners, especially in the complex oncology field. ONS supports learning in any way imaginable for nurses to improve their practice and patient care.” 

Mona Escalon, MSN, RN, CCRN-K, Texas Llano Estacado ONS Chapter Programs Committee Chair 

Escalon joined ONS in 2007 after becoming a bone marrow transplant coordinator. She’s the Magnet program director at UMC Health System ( in Lubbock, TX, and her chapter’s ( programs committee chair.  

“I wanted to learn everything about caring for adult patients with cancer, so I joined ONS. I quickly became active and served on my chapter’s board in several capacities,” she said. “ONS is on the forefront and helps me serve my patients while continuously learning to give my patients and families quality, compassionate care.” 

The Texas Llano Estacado Chapter formed in 1996 and currently has 62 total members, Escalon said. It was recognized as the 1997 Rookie Chapter of the Year and honored in 1998 for Outstanding Achievement for Recruitment and Retention. Escalon said her chapter supports the Oncology Nursing Foundation with monetary donations and attends ONS Congress every year.  

“As a new nurse, I could not care for patients with cancer, so I began my nursing career in the pediatric intensive care unit, where I cared for critically ill children with hematology and oncology diagnoses,” she said. “I have always had a special love for patients with cancer because my mom had non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. She is the reason I became a nurse.” 

Matthew Ortiz, MSN, RN, OCN®, Inland Northwest ONS Chapter Past President and Board Member 

Ortiz joined ONS in 2015 after starting his former role of assistant nurse manager on an inpatient oncology unit. He’s now the oncology program manager at Providence Health and Services ( in Renton, WA, and served as one of his chapter’s ( past presidents. He is currently one of its board members.  

“I learned about ONS from my nurse educator. She actually made attending a chapter meeting a requirement during orientation,” Ortiz said. “I wanted to stay up to date on all the latest developments in the oncology nursing world, and at the second meeting I attended, they opened the floor for chapter board nominations. They asked if anyone was interested in the chapter presidency position. I ran unopposed and I was in.” 

Inland Northwest has been a chapter for almost 30 years. Ortiz said it has 125 registered members and offers nine regular programs a year, with additional nursing continuing professional development programs when possible. Ortiz said that his chapter gives annual scholarships to help nurses attend ONS Congress, and has hosted occasional symposiums, which it is aiming to make a regular occurrence.  

“I lost my sister to cancer and became an oncology nurse to make a difference. I enjoy feeling a part of something bigger than myself and am constantly challenged and encouraged to grow for the sake of our patients,” Ortiz said. “I owe a great deal of gratitude to the countless opportunities and experiences ONS has provided for me and the dreams that have come true with its help.” 

Celine Palmiter, BSN, RN, OCN®, San Diego ONS Chapter Treasurer 

Palmiter joined ONS in 2011 as a new graduate working in an oncology unit. She’s now a nurse case manager specializing in gastrointestinal medical oncology at the University of California San Diego Moores Cancer Center ( Palmiter is her chapter’s ( treasurer.  

“My clinical educator introduced me to ONS, and I found that one of the invaluable aspects of being a member is the access to oncology education. ONS offered online courses to learn more about oncology treatment modalities, side effects, and surgeries,” Palmiter said. “Initially, I used my membership solely for education, but when I transitioned from an inpatient nurse to an outpatient clinic nurse, I started to attend ONS meetings and bonded with other local nurses.” 

The San Diego chapter has about 400 members and hosts monthly membership meetings and several networking events throughout the year, including dinner programs and an annual vendor fair. Palmiter said her chapter has introduced more activity-based events that emphasize self-care, like a successful yoga event in February, and plans to offer additional wellness and outdoor activities later in the year. Palmiter said that the chapter has since turned its focus on activities to strengthen and support local oncology nurses during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.  

“Participating in my local ONS community has been very rewarding to both my personal and professional career, and attending ONS Congress has made the most significant impact on my professional growth” Palmiter said. “Engaging with other nurses in a stimulating environment always invigorates my passion for oncology nursing. I am thankful and proud to be a part of ONS as it supports our patients and nurses as they advance healthcare policy.” 

Local chapter affiliation is included in every ONS membership. View a full list of ONS chapters across the United States ( to find your chapter’s community page and start connecting virtually today.  

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