European Cancer Congress 2013
Live report: Day 2

30th Anniversary

As EONS approaches its 30th anniversary, it is time to celebrate how far we’ve come - and plan for the future. This morning’s Anniversary Session was entitled Multidisciplinary Collaboration - Reflections on the Past, Thinking Ahead for the Future. Birgitte Grube, outgoing EONS President, began by reflecting on the society’s history and changes in the oncology nursing profession.

Then we heard from various different organisations who have worked with EONS over the years. Cornelius van de Velde of ECCO talked about how EONS has pushed forward multidisciplinary collaboration as a Founding Member of ECCO. He praised EONS Board Member Anita Margulies for being the first ever nurse to win the Pezcoller-ECCO award for contributions to oncology.

Martin Piccart of ESMO said that she believes “here is not sufficient recognition of oncology nursing as a discipline.” She argued for increasing collaboration between ESMO and EONS in the future and commented: “I don’t know how we could do research without oncology nurses.”

Peter Naredi of ESSO made a similar comment about his own profession: “Surgeons would be nothing without the opportunity to collaborate with nurses.” But he raised a concern: why do so many nurses leave clinical care when they get a PhD? And how can we stop them leaving? Naredi also shared concerns about patient perceptions of oncology professionals. Will the rise of robot surgery and computer algorithms lead patients to think that the oncologist plays “a minor role”? In the future, will they be more inclined to trust computers than humans? We don’t yet know.

After a contribution from Vincenzo Valentini of ESTRO, we heard from Gilles Vassal of SIOPE. He said that now 80% of young cancer patients in Europe can be cured - great news, but it means that there are many young adult cancer survivors living with the after-effects of their illness and treatment. Who helps them manage those after-effects? It is more a role for nurses than any other clinician. Professor Vassal also believes that these higher survival rates are in themselves due to multidisciplinary collaboration in European oncology - with nurses a key part of the mix. “We need to improve collaboration with nurses.”

The final speaker was Fatima Cardoso of ESO, who said: “We couldn’t perform any clinical research without the crucial role of nurses.” She pointed out that doctors often don’t learn techniques such as drawing blood in medical school. When they need to do something simple like make an injection, they learn these techniques from nurses. All ESO events for nurses are done in collaboration with EONS, an arrangement made long ago that has worked very well.

Chair Erik van Muilekom wrapped up the session by asking for audience questions. EONS Board Member Mary Wells spoke from the floor. Her point: all the speakers have spoken about the need for further multidisciplinary collaboration, but they need to back that up with action. More inclusion and recognition of nurses is the way to keep PhD nurses in clinical care: “The more you ask us to be at the table, the less we will leave the profession.” She also spoke about the need to help eastern European oncology nurses who are not being recognised in their country.

Prestigious award for EONS Board Member

Anita Margulies receives the Pezcoller-ECCO Award
A delighted Anita Margulies receives the Pezcoller-ECCO Award

Anita Margulies, EONS Board Member, is one nurse who has done a huge amount to increase recognition of oncology nurses. Today she delivered a lecture in honour of having received the Pezcoller-ECCO Award for her contribution to oncology. She is the first ever nurse to receive this prestigious award. She has been working in continuing professional education for over 30 years and won the award for her development of educational resources and her mentoring of nurses.

The Award lecture was about the importance of nurses within multidisciplinary teams: “Science without care does not work any better than care without science”. She also called for regulators to give nurses full open access to drug information so that they remain up to date with the latest developments.

Anita also praised EONS for its work with oncology nurses, calling it a “fantastic society” and praising the CARE (Communication, Advocacy, Research and Education) strategy.

EONS General Meeting

The EONS General Meeting was preceded by a Networking Reception, held jointly with the Dutch Oncology Nursing Society, where members took the chance to catch up over a glass of wine.

The evening’s business began with the approval of the 2012 meeting minutes and a speech from outgoing EONS President Birgitte Grube, who reflected on the past two years. She said that the EONS CARE strategy - Communication, Advocacy, Research, Education - remains key to our work.

Executive Director Clair Watts led the voting, which was to confirm the results of the elections in which all EONS Members were eligible to vote. There were no surprises; all results were confirmed.

Maria Cristina Pires de Lacerda of Portugal was elected EONS Treasurer. Andreas Charalambous of Cyprus) was elected Board Member for Education. Patrick Crombez of Belgium was elected Board Member for Advocacy. Daniel Kelly (United Kingdom) was elected President-Elect.

The EONS Board from October 2013
The new EONS Board Members

We then took some time to thank some of the outgoing Board Members. Sultan Kav, Françoise Charnay-Sonnek and Anita Margulies received a token of thanks from the Board and prolonged, foot-stamping applause from the assembled members.

Outgoing President Birgitte Grube then formally handed over the Presidency to Erik van Muilekom, who spoke about plans for the future: “Build bridges. And if you can’t build a bridge, dig a tunnel.”

Erik van Muilekon receives the Presidency of EONS from Birgitte Grube
Erik van Muilekon receives the Presidency of EONS from Birgitte Grube

Then it was the turn of the Working Group Chairs to update members on the work of their groups over the past couple of years. Paul Trevatt, Communication Working Group co-chair, told us about the new website design and the successful social media trial. Françoise Charnay-Sonnek of the Advocacy group told us about their efforts to increase minimum educational requirements for oncology nurses in the EU and gain recognition of oncology nursing as a speciality. Mary Wells of the Research group shared various achievements and invited people to apply for the spring workshop. Finally, Anita Margulies reported from the Education Working Group about the success of the first Putting Evidence into Practice (PEP) workshop.

We then heard a financial report from Daniel Kelly as outgoing Treasurer, an update on grants and awards from Sultan Kav and a report on the 2013 Masterclass from Lena Sharp.

The EONS General Meeting ended on a note of optimism - but with a feeling that there is lots of work for us to do before the next one!