As cancer care delivery changes, oncology nurses step up to the challenge: they adapt and develop solutions to fuel the future of nursing education, certification, and practice. During the November 2021 ONS Hackathon™, launched in partnership with the Oncology Nursing Certification Corporation (ONCC), teams were tasked to identify methods that address issues in the delivery of cancer care and prepare the future nursing workforce to care for patients with cancer anywhere.

“The theme set the teams to work on solutions for the future of nurse learning, certification, and practice,” Tony Ellis, MSEd, CAE, executive director of ONCC, said. “Care for patients with cancer will increasingly be delivered and monitored outside the traditional inpatient setting, and oncology nurses will need to know how to perform, educate others, and manage care in new ways, including remotely, which requires new knowledge and skills.”

The ONS-ONCC Hackathon is a team‑based competition that brings together participants from a variety of backgrounds and settings in oncology with a goal. The first-place team, comprised of Shannon Krajewski, MSN, RN, OCN®, CMSRN, and Stefanie Wenger, MSN, RN, BMTCN®, OCN®, developed a toolkit to increase preceptor development by providing preceptors who work in direct patient care settings with the necessary resources to train nurses on the oncology specialty. The toolkit will soon be available as a resource on the ONS website.

“The preceptor toolkit has resources relating evidence-based nursing practices for caring for patients with cancer, preceptor continuing education and development tools, and up-to-date information on oncology topics, all in one place,” Krajewski said.

The goal was to give preceptors the ability to train nurses based on evidence, as opposed to experience. The idea stemmed from Krajewski’s and Wenger’s preceptor experiences and the challenges other preceptors reported when training nurses.

ONS Preceptor Toolkit

“It can be difficult adding on the task of preceptor while still having to maintain your regular duties on shift,” Wenger said. “The idea was to make things just a little bit easier for preceptors who care for patients with cancer.”

The second-place team, comprised of Walidah Crawford, MSN, RN, OCN®, Lori Jemison, RN, OCN®, BMTCN®, Kerri Kramer, MA, RN, CPHON®, and Nicola Stewart, MHL, BSN, RN-BC, OCN®, developed the Comprehensive Oncology Mentored Pathway Affirming a Surge of Success, or COMPASS, a game-based application that uses individualized career pathways and an algorithm to match mentors with mentees based on search criteria. The game showcases a journey through ONS resources and programs, such as the Cancer Basics course, and offers a mentor pathway.

The application can be used at any level, from novice to expert, and emphasizes the importance of mentorship in the oncology nursing specialty. The platform also provides an opportunity for advertising partnerships.


“We thought about the COVID world that we live in now and what new nurses who are coming to the floor need. What would make the whole process of becoming an experienced oncology nurse easier?” Stewart said. “And that’s when we started thinking about how the world works today. We’re always on our phones, whether you’re waiting for the train or a doctor’s appointment. We whip out our cell phones and play on games or apps. COMPASS is something nurses can use while they’re killing time that could actually help them, rather than waste time.”

The third-place team, comprised of Emily Beard, BSN, RN, OCN®, CBCN®, Sharon Seidman, RN, MSN, OCN®, and Tiffany Hopper, MSN, RN, OCN®, developed an app that uses short, crowd-sourced video content to promote and foster clinical education and professional development. Inspired by TikTok and Duolingo, the team said that the app would help nurses who struggle to find time for independent learning.

Hopper said the team recognized that nurses from any specialty at any time can encounter a patient with cancer and that nurses beyond oncology also had a need for oncology education. They also strategically designed the app to address how the emerging nursing workforce prefers to learn.

Nursing App

“A nurse logs in, indicates their specialty and how much experience they have, and based on their input, an algorithm determines what kind of content should be targeted to them. They could get quick videos, or they could search videos, which would have links to articles. There’s also an option for chat features,” Hopper said. “We integrated a gaming aspect, so periodically after watching so many videos on certain content, nurses receive a checkpoint where they answer questions about certain criteria and earn digital badges to put on their resume.”

Hackathon itself is a learning opportunity for participants: each team is guided by expert mentors, and panel of judges asks questions and sparks discussions after each presentation. And although participants said they enjoyed creating solutions to the presented challenge and hearing other teams’ ideas during the final pitch, Michele Galioto, DNP, RN, CNS, executive director for the ONS Center for Innovation and emcee for the ONS-ONCC Hackathon, said that the collaboration, networking, and encouragement she sees from the teams is heartwarming.

Throughout the final pitch, the teams cheered each other on in the chat. It speaks to what I believe is the community of oncology nurses supporting each other as we are looking into these complex scenarios to figure out how we can improve our collective world. When they step out of their comfort zone, amazing things can happen.

Michele Galioto