By Jessica Baylis, RN, and Alexandra Land, RN
How does a new graduate nurse develop connections and community in the nursing world? We asked ourselves that exact question before graduating from Boise State University's (BSU) School of Nursing, where we served as copresidents of the school’s student nurses’ association (SNA). We wanted to bridge the gap between students and professional nurses, and the answer came soon after, when our local ONS chapter invited us to join and serve as student liaisons to its board of directors.
As student liaisons of the Southern Idaho ONS Chapter (ONSI), we supported the board with its goals and connected our fellow nursing students with ONSI, ONS on the national level, and local oncology events and educational opportunities. Our experience was so positive that we continued to participate in ONSI as members after graduation.
Chapter Collaboration for Student Nurses
Through outreach and engagement with BSU and other local Idaho nursing programs, ONSI has grown its student memberships and student liaison positions. One of those events was a discussion panel between students and members of the ONSI board. The members gave a short presentation about ONS and shared their personal experiences working in oncology and the “why” behind their career paths. They engaged the students in an interesting discussion around oncology nursing in general, the variety of oncology nursing subspecialties, and ways to become an oncology nurse. At the end of the event, ONSI provided resources on how to join ONS and how to apply to the chapter board as student liaisons for the next year.
SNA offered an event called “Meet the Nurses” that created an environment for students to explore different nursing avenues with real RNs in the field. We invited members of the ONSI board to host a table at that event so that students could learn more about the organization and oncology nursing in general.
In the fall, both ONSI and SNA typically hold separate in-person fundraising drives, but in 2020 we teamed up to host a drive to donate school supplies to a teacher whose family member had been diagnosed with cancer. We were able to cross-market the event and donate a box of school supplies to the teacher’s classroom.
ONSI welcomed us and our classmates to board meetings, dinners with local representatives, and fundraising events. Those experiences enhanced our leadership skills, taught us about new cancer treatments, and gave us relationships with inspiring nurses. The networking events also allowed us to share the benefits of ONS with our classmates and future nursing students, and the connections formed during chapter meetings made us feel welcomed when we entered our clinical sites and saw familiar faces. Because of our chapter’s generosity, many of our peers joined ONS as new student members.
Connect Through ONS Communities
Both of us have used the ONS Communities as student nurses to connect with oncology nurses through forums to share ideas, ask questions, and gain insight from clinicians of all specialties and experience levels.
Jessica had her clinical senior preceptorship on the oncology unit at the local hospital. “During the first few weeks on the floor, it was comforting and empowering to ask fellow nurses questions on the ONS Communities and feel supported,” she said.
Alex also spent time on the oncology unit for her preceptorship and used the ONS Communities to find resources on how to access a port. “An ONS board member who also happened to work on the unit gave me a patient simulator to practice on, which enabled me to access my first port with ease,” she said.
ONS Resources for Student Members
ONS resources are a great way to prepare for interviews and view the job boards after graduation. Full-time nursing students in a prelicensure program can join ONS for free. As student members, we can take ONS’s cancer basics and safe handling basics courses for free and gain the confidence to navigate the complex world of cancer care. We took as many ONS courses as we could.
Alec Stone’s advocacy 101 course was especially interesting because he was in Washington, DC, as the COVID-19 coronavirus escalated and dealing with policy regarding the pandemic. We also took a course that taught about new targeted therapies. These were a great way to feel more connected during a time of isolation and quarantine.
Student nurses also have access to an extensive library of materials on oncology nurse education and preparing for a career in cancer care, including podcasts, videos, guidelines, articles, and books.
Thank you, ONSI, for giving us an incredible opportunity that continues to reward us, future students, and our community. We are grateful to be part of this group of accomplished and innovative nurses.