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Kelly D, Lankshear A, Wiseman T The experiences of cancer nurses working in four European countries: a qualitative study. Eur J Oncol Nurs. 2020; 49

Inspiring a new generation

26 May 2022
Volume 31 · Issue 10

Currently, the nursing profession is facing several challenges. The national and global shortage of nurses is an obvious issue, with many nurses retiring in the next few years. There are also challenges brought about by continuously evolving health care, new ways of delivering care and less funding to support professional growth and development among nurses.

Cancer nurses are expected to undergo specialist training and education to achieve the necessary knowledge, competencies and skills needed to enable them to carry out their roles, and to support patients safely and confidently. In recent years, we have seen great advances in cancer treatments such as targeted anti-cancer treatment drugs.

These developments improve survival outcomes and lessen the impact on patients' quality of life, which is excellent news. For cancer nursing, the introduction of new treatments and novel ways of delivering treatment means there is a need for additional skills and specialist knowledge. Burnout, compassion fatigue and moral distress are common among cancer nurses due to the complexities associated with carrying out nursing roles within cancer settings. With all these factors and issues, novice or young cancer nurses may find the specialist cancer role quite challenging. Hence, experienced senior nurses, as well as professional cancer nursing organisations, should be committed to supporting younger and early career nurses and guiding them as they navigate in an already very demanding and challenging profession.

The idea of creating a Young Cancer Nursing Network originated from the European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS). EONS defines a young cancer nurse (YCN) as someone who is ‘under the age of 35 years, working in cancer care settings in the WHO Europe region’ (EONS, 2022). The initiative was promoted by EONS to European national cancer nursing societies, in response to early research findings highlighting challenges of European cancer nurses such as access to education and career development (Kelly et al, 2020).

The core mission of the UK Oncology Nursing Society (UKONS) is to ‘inspire and promote excellence in cancer care’ by supporting cancer nurses in their research, learning and development. Thus, the idea of creating networking opportunities and support for YCNs was easy to integrate in its existing activities. The first YCN lead, Bethany Maynard, was appointed in 2018. In 2019, another two YCN leads were appointed—Constance Rowell and Jane Ewang. They were initially supported by a UKONS Board link. The three leads explain their journey on page S41. The appointment of three leads is an ideal model because nurses who belong to this group are at a busy stage of their lives as they grow professionally and personally. On a different note, our newly registered nurses in the UK are not always young when compared with those in Europe. Many of our nurses come into nursing later in life or as a second career. The decision was made to name the group Young and Early Career Cancer Nurses (YECCNs), to include those under the age of 35 and those who are within 5 years of cancer nursing experience regardless of age.

There are several reasons why national nursing societies such as UKONS should promote initiatives targeted at YECCNs to encourage their participation. First, organisations such as UKONS have a wealth of experience among its membership. By encouraging YECCNs to engage, we are increasing their awareness of available opportunities where they could learn, share practice, discover recent evidence, form collaborations, and meet potential mentors. Second, by providing a space for YECCNs to network, members can interact and collectively identify their specific needs to develop as a cancer nurse. This bottom-up approach is useful for planning future educational provisions and activities. Finally, having a YECCN group within UKONS is ideal for succession planning.

Getting our YECCN leads involved early on will help hone their leadership and management skills within a national organisation. However, the benefits of the YECCN member interest group within UKONS is not one-sided. Since 2018, our motivated and enthusiastic YECCN leads have joined various member interest groups and taken leadership roles within the organisation.

Without a doubt, the creation and sustained momentum of the UKONS YECCN group is a success story worth telling. Did we inspire the next generation of cancer nurses? Only they can answer that. But they have certainly inspired us!