Like many oncology nurses, I spend as much time as I can trying to keep up on new nursing research. That used to happen a lot during my lunchtime. But with the increasing workloads, and ever-narrowing budgets in healthcare, I find even lunch is often crowded out by work.
This isnít because I am some sort of martyr. Itís just because when patients need something, you take care of it. Thatís how it works in nurse land. But this means that I donít get the time to really expand my knowledge, unless I take it home to my house full of kids, pets, and online classes. No, thatís not going to work. Especially for someone like me, who is new to oncology, keeping up is important because my knowledge of the basics is still growing.
Which brings up another concern: When I worked as a floor nurse, there was even less time to peruse a nursing journal. I did find myself researching things on my own time, or looking them up on the fly at the moment that I needed to know something. There was never a spare moment to expand my own knowledge. So how do we do it? We all do it on our own time because itís important. We know expanding our knowledge is one of the reasons that we are considered a profession.
With all of the demands of our time, though, some nursesí continuing education is restricted to the minimum requirements of their workplace or license renewal. Often, institutional education is one of two things: general and designed for the general nursing population, or overly simplistic, designed to meet the needs of a departmentís accreditation standard.
This doesnít expand our nursing knowledge. There are excellent, well researched, evidence-based courses through the ONS, but these do not come cheap, so they arenít often used as institution-required learning, and many nurses canít afford to pay for expensive courses when there are $30 courses that give them all the continuing education required for their license renewal. Even subscriptions to nursing journals can be economically out of reach at times.
I think that one excellent way to expand the knowledge base of nurses is to design education that is both meaningful and brief enough to be done in their few spare moments on the clock. However, Iím not always sure what format this education should take. Case studies, grand rounds, guest speakers? What is the most affordable and best use of staff time? And how do we satisfy the education needs of both novice and expert learners so that our nursing competence is elevated to a higher standard?
Institutions are focused on providing education that must be provided, and that often is the bare minimum. As oncology nurses, we work in a field where the knowledge base grows and changes constantly. Quality patient care depends on our willingness to grow with that knowledge base.
Baseline competency is very important, but so is the pursuit of excellence. What does your institution require for annual oncology competency? And are there specific resources that are available to your staff for further learning? Do you have a favorite resource for oncology nursing (beside TheONC, of course!)?