Breakthroughs Fuel Nurses' Need to Learn

February 5, 2007
Mary Mccabe, RN, MA

Oncology, ONCOLOGY Vol 21 No 2, Volume 21, Issue 2

One cannot pick up a newspaper, magazine, or even a professional journal without reading about the increasing pace of scientific discoveries and the expanded potential for medical breakthroughs in the postgenomic era. In particular, there is great emphasis placed on the unprecedented opportunity for incredible new tools to address the cancer problem.

One cannot pick up a newspaper, magazine, or even a professional journal without reading about the increasing pace of scientific discoveries and the expanded potential for medical breakthroughs in the postgenomic era. In particular, there is great emphasis placed on the unprecedented opportunity for incredible new tools to address the cancer problem. Thus the knowledge to be gained, as well as the application of this knowledge, is sure to affect us all.

But where specifically does nursing fit into this knowledge revolution? Is it relevant to us and our practice? Hopefully we can all respond in the affirmative. Because nurses are engaged in care at each intersection where patients and families receive heath services, we are front and center as these sweeping advances improve our ability to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat those who are at risk for and who are diagnosed with cancer. To illustrate this point, one only has to review the broad scope of topics authored by nurses in this issue. Included are case studies that provide education about complex medical problems, conditions, and treatments, an article that includes an approach to web-based communication with patients, as well as drug information on antiangiogenic agents.

Because oncology nursing is a broad specialty that encompasses many different roles in many different settings, it might seem that these advances in understanding cancer etiology, the electronic tools that have been developed to produce this information, and the use of this information to tailor treatment and prevention strategies will be useful to a few and only serve to make us more specialized than ever before. But let's be more imaginative than that. While it may be true that increasing specialization is inevitable, we need not lose sight of the general learning opportunities open to all of us, regardless of our area of professional activity—including research, education, and practice.

Specifically, let's consider the following set of opportunities and responsibilities that we can all derive from the forthcoming research breakthroughs. First, we will all have the opportunity during our professional careers for tremendous knowledge acquisition. We will need to not only learn complex information, but to also understand and disseminate it. Research will inform practice and influence education in many new ways, resulting in an evolution in the roles of future oncology nurses. Second, there will be more and more scientific evidence upon which to base practice affording us increasing opportunities to move toward continual quality improvement as a profession.

Third, the communications systems that are evolving in parallel with the science will provide us tools for customizing patient education and allow rapid dissemination among ourselves through many web-based initiatives such as long distance learning programs. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we can and should take this time of progress to engage in the developing debate on health-care reform. As we collaborate in the development, evaluation, and use of new and better therapies—whether they are curative or palliative in intent—we should work to assure that this standard of care is available to all Americans.

Let's begin 2007 with a renewed commitment to the future and all that we can achieve. My best wishes for a productive and healthy new year.

—Mary McCabe, RN, MA
Editor-in-Chief

Disclosures:

The author(s) have no significant financial interest or other relationship with the manufacturers of any products or providers of any service mentioned in this article.

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