Young cancer nurses

Meet Bethany Maynard

Bethany Maynard is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner in oncology at the University of Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. She has recently taken on the role of representing UKONS (United Kingdom Oncology Nursing Society) Young Cancer Nurses (YCN) in England on the EONS Young Cancer Nurses Group.
+  Read a short interview with Bethany

Get in touch

With the appointment of the new EONS non-executive Young Cancer Nurse Representative, Sara Torcato Parreira, the EONS Young Cancer Nurses team would welcome any feedback on how EONS can better support the development of this community. To get in touch, go to the Contact EONS page and select EONS Young Cancer Nurses team from the drop down list.

A Europe-wide YCN community

Sara Torcato Parreira, EONS’ Young Cancer Nurse (YCN) representative on the EONS Board, is working to build a broad YCN community across Europe. She has written to all EONS national societies seeking to recruit a network of YCN representatives - one from each country. Sara said: “I am delighted to announce this further step towards supporting YCNs! This enthusiastic group of YCNs will continue to raise the profile of young cancer nurses and cancer nursing!”
+  Read Sara’s letter

EONS announces young cancer nurse as non-executive Board Member

EONS is pleased to announce that it has appointed its first young cancer nurse (YCN) as a non-executive member of its Board. This is a unique role that has been developed in response to feedback from our membership that has suggested that young cancer nurses across Europe face a variety of complex operational, educational, strategic and policy challenges unique to them. As an ambassador for this community, the nurse will be expected to identify issues and to provide solutions, working with a network of European peers. Following a large number of applications, EONS is delighted that Sara Torcato Parreira has been identified as the young cancer nurse who will be joining the Board.

Picture of Sara Torcato ParreiraSara (pictured left) is an oncology nurse specialist based near Lisbon in Portugal. She was thrilled to be notified of the position: “I’m very grateful for this opportunity,” she said, “I accept it with a great sense of responsibility and a lot of passion. I'm aware that we (YCNs) have some specific needs and that we face some challenges in our practice. But the future of cancer nursing relies on us, and we can make a difference not only for cancer nursing but also for cancer patients. Young cancer nurses cannot let themselves be driven into inaction. We have to step in.”

Paul Trevatt and Rebecca Verity, EONS Board Members who have led on this for a number of years, are equally excited: “This position is the direct result of our members telling us of their concerns for this growing community of cancer nurse practitioners who feel challenged because of both environmental issues and their age. We are hoping to build a network of young cancer nurses across Europe who, working with Sara, can create the next generation of cancer nurse leaders who feel empowered and enabled to challenge some of the issues that concern them.”

EONS President Professor Danny Kelly felt that this appointment complements nicely previous partnership activity: “I am keen to encourage all views and how they can be included in the work of EONS. This new venture links with the Young Oncologists initiative in ECCO, and we nominated two Young Career Fellowships earlier this year to attend ECCO17 in Amsterdam. We hope to build on this by developing new educational opportunities in leadership in the near future.”

“All cancer nurses need to have a voice in EONS and our Member Societies remain the main vehicle for this. I welcome Sara as she represents our younger members. However, I hope all members will continue to feel able to make their views known so we can assist in the important work that everyone is doing.”

President Elect Lena Sharp feels that this is a remarkable opportunity for EONS to lead on this workforce issue and to support the RECaN European project: “RECaN is about Recognising Cancer Nursing in Europe. This new Board position will help us better recognise young cancer nurses’ issues and challenges, and support their important contribution to cancer patients and their families.”

Sara will join the EONS Board in Tallinn, Estonia, in May.

We are the future - The first Portuguese Young Cancer Nurses Workshop tackles some key issues

Last December (2016), the Portuguese Oncology Nursing Association held its first YCN Workshop. It was facilitated by Sara Torcato Parreira, who attended EONS’ YCN Workshop in Athens, in 2015.

Participants at the Young Cancer Nurses meeting in Portugal
Skype: Marta Bello, Sara Torcato Parreira, Sara Costa, Maria Dias

Due to a lack of young nurses entering the profession, the Portuguese national society expressed some concerns and created this event in order to find what the challenges, needs and motivations are for YCNs and in what way the national society can support them. Four YCNs attended, from the public and private health care setting. They were all under 30 years old and they all worked in oncology. One of them could not attend in person, so a skype video call was arranged.

It was agreed that Portuguese YCNs are unmotivated, not only because of the economic crisis (there is no career progression and the salaries were reduced), but also due to the following key issues:

  • Although they can have a degree in it, cancer nursing is not recognised as a specialisation (by the Portuguese Government);
  • They can only get their degree as an oncology nurse specialist in Lisbon (so it’s very difficult for someone working in another city);
  • You can have your degree as a specialist nurse but you will earn the same as a general one (no career progression);
  • YCNs keep changing location (as there is shortage of nurses they can easily spend a few months in one place and suddenly get transferred to another);
  • In some situations, senior staff aren’t able to motivate them and older nurses can feel reluctant about their proactivity;
  • In most cases, they have to spend their own time and money to study or to go to conferences.

The Portuguese YCNs also said that it is difficult for them to manage the emotional stress of dealing with cancer patients and to know where to search for reliable information, in order to better understand the treatments specificities. The language can also be a barrier, so to have reliable information, easy to understand, in Portuguese, would be fantastic.

And, although they consider that Portuguese national society has been doing a good work, it was said that there are still cancer nurses that do not know about it, or about EONS - mainly the ones working in the countryside and in wards. So, it was agreed that more needs to be done to attract nurses: “Social media isn’t enough: we need to have ambassadors.”

In conclusion, several interventions were proposed:

  • To have ambassadors so that they can reach the hospitals where there are no members and advertise the Portuguese national society;
  • To have one YCN at each working group;
  • To have a grant for one YCN to attend the national Congress;
  • To have a website for YCNs, so they know where to search for reliable information (and free e-learning);
  • To create a free e-learning (in Portuguese) called “Cancer Basics”;
  • To create a survey for all the Portuguese YCNs;
  • To have a session dedicated to YCNs in the national Congress.

Sara Torcato Parreira concluded: “All countries should organise a workshop like this, in order to better understand and support YCNs. I know that some countries are struggling with difficulties (like my own), but we are the future and we need to get motivated, so that we can continue to raise the value of cancer nursing all over Europe.”

Could you be the voice of young cancer nurses on the EONS Board?

EONS is offering an exciting opportunity for a Young Cancer Nurse (YCN) to join the EONS Board as a non-executive member (non-voting). The successful appointee will be expected to attend all EONS Board meetings (currently four per year, one of which may be a teleconference). Travel and accommodation expenses will be paid in line with all EONS Board members. The role is initially for two years after which the Board will review the impact of the role and assess future needs and resource availability.

There are a key number of responsibilities that the non-executive Board member will be expected to carry out. These include:

  • Serve as an ambassador for YCNs across Europe.
  • Develop a Young Cancer Nurse Network / Community across Europe working in partnership with EONS’ national societies.
  • Map out the current concerns and challenges that YCNs in Europe experience.
  • Identify potential strategies and solutions to the issues identified.
  • Report regularly to the EONS Board on progress made with the agreed actions.
  • Disseminate updates and findings to the EONS membership through various platforms - for example, the Annual General Meeting and the Advisory Council.
  • Raise the profile of YCNs through social media - for example, write blogs on the YCN web page, and inform constituents through the normal EONS communication channels.

The successful appointee will be well supported in the role, working in partnership with the EONS Board and the EONS project management team. This is a wonderful opportunity for an enthusiastic and talented YCN, which will support your personal and professional development. It is also envisaged that there would be a direct benefit for the YCN’s workplace as the learning and development would be directly transferred back to the clinical environment.

What sort of YCN are we looking for?

We are looking for someone who is 30 years of age or under and who works with cancer patients on a regular basis (this can be in a specialist unit or a generalist area). You should have between three and five years’ experience post nursing qualification. You should also be a member of your cancer nursing society. Evidence of working within your cancer nursing society is desirable but not essential.

What next?

The application process for this role is now closed. The successful candidate will be notified by the end of March. We would expect the appointee to join us at the EONS Executive Board Meeting in Tallinn, Estonia, on Friday 19 May, 2017.

Some participants from our November 2015 workshop. Left-right: Kristina Karp (Estonia), Sara Pereira (Portugal), Sgourou Stavroula (Greece) and Chara Kalogirou (Cyprus). Photo credit: Stevi Stavroula.
Some participants from our November 2015 workshop. Left-right: Kristina Karp (Estonia), Sara Pereira (Portugal), Sgourou Stavroula (Greece) and Chara Kalogirou (Cyprus). Photo credit: Stevi Stavroula.

We know from listening to our members that younger, newly qualified cancer nurses are more likely to face challenges with finding work and accessing education and training. They are also less likely to be involved in the activities of their country’s national cancer nursing society.

We believe that EONS could do more to engage with younger cancer nurses, working with the national cancer nursing societies that are EONS members. We started by facilitating a young cancer nurse at our November 2015 Advisory Council meeting in Athens.
+  View the presentation from this workshop.

Participants at the workshop identified the priorities for our work with young European cancer nurses:

  • Raising awareness of the needs of young European cancer nurses
  • Enabling the nurses to share best practice and communicate with each other
  • Creating spaces to bring young European cancer nurses together

The spring 2016 issue of the EONS Magazine reported on the workshop:
+  Read this article on screen
+  Download this article as a PDF

Paul Trevatt, EONS board member, writes:
Paul Trevatt“EONS has heard on a number of occasions the challenges that Young Cancer Nurses across Europe face and how difficult it can be these days working in oncology as a newly qualified practitioner. As such EONS is keen to support this community of nurses and the problems that they face. From the workshop in Athens in 2016 the feedback we received indicated that this group needs assistance with accessing education and training, finding employment, and developing ways of connecting and communicating with one another across localities and countries . It is hoped that by developing a specific Young cancer nurse web page we can begin to address some of those concerns as well as raise the profile of this as a European cancer nursing issue.”
Sara Torcato Parreira, a young cancer nurse from Portugal, writes
“YCN need support and encouragement to get their place in the oncology field. I believe that they can rise to new challenges if they feel motivated and confident. We cannot forget that “Young people might lack experience but they tend to be highly motivated and capable of offering new ideas or insights. They are the drivers of economic development in a country. Foregoing this potential is an economic waste.
(International Labour Organisation, Global Employment Trend of Youth, 2010)

I make an appeal to all YCN: in spite of all the difficulties and challenges that we face, the future of oncology nursing relies on us. We have to care for our patients but we also have to care for our profession. So, it is up to us to learn, participate and work together (younger and older) in order to improve cancer nursing and cancer care.”


Read the views of two workshop participants

Sara Torcato Parreira Name: Sara Torcato Parreira
Country: Portugal
Nursing Roles: Nurse at an Oncology Day Unit

Challenges for YCN:
Most of young cancer nurses (YCN) are truly motivated to develop their professional skills and competencies and to learn the best way to work in a team and to care for patients. This motivation is due to the will of being a better nurse, for him/herself, for colleagues and for patients. But YCN also feel some difficulties in order to achieve this. When talking to other YCN (from Portugal), it was said that the main problems faced were:
  • Knowledge about antineoplastic medication (administration, side effects, special cares and details)
  • Side effects management and oncological emergencies
  • Searching for reliable information on internet (and language barrier)
  • Lack of strategies for emotional self-management
  • Lack of strategies to deal with patients emotions, mainly in these situations:
    • Answering direct questions “Is this going to cure me?”/“Am I going to die?”
    • Patient expectations/hope when the prognosis is bad
    • Patient “distrust” when they notice they are being cared for a young nurse
  • Dealing with older team members, especially doctors (young nurses consider that they are not taken seriously and it is difficult to talk with them about patients problems or to ask them something)
  • Low salary and lack of opportunities for career progression
  • Few time and money for education opportunities and for attending national and international events
  • Few confidence to contribute for national societies and for their own department activities due to their lack of experience and also, in some cases, few encouragement from their national societies, older colleagues and supervisors.
Some possible solutions:
  • More educational activities, from national societies, for YCN
  • Having, at least, one YCN at national societies working groups
  • More opportunities (like scholarships, grants, reduced fees) to attend educational courses and national and international events
  • E-learning (in different languages)
  • Creating a program (online?) to support YCN, with the possibility for YCN to send their doubts, share their experiences and contribute with their own opinion about what contents should be on that program
Stevi First name: Stavroula (Stevi)
Country: Greece
Role: Nurse in Oncology Department

What do you think the challenge is for young European cancer nurses?
YCN face many challenges in their everyday life. There are many expectations and requirements but the same time they have not the appropriate experience. Some of them do not have enough education for a such specialized working place and also the may have not choose to work in a such complicated Department as the Oncology Department.

What do you think the answer is for the problems young cancer nurses face?
I believe that the answer is covered by two words: education and communication. Continuing education make you feel stronger about the problems you face in clinical practice and able to defend your opinion. Also, communication is the best way to exchange opinions, facts and considerations in order to improve the way the Department works and to avoid burn out.


Useful resources for young cancer nurses
You can find some paid online courses and practice resources
Besides of finding the latest news related to cancer nurses and EONS activities, you can also know the work done by the CARE groups, be aware of updated grants and opportunities and find free online courses for nurses and other useful links for online learning recommended by EONS
News and events and online learning at
You can find guidelines for professionals and patients as well as educational events and programs, including online learning
You can find updated news guidelines for supportive cancer care


An EONS member, ‘PL’, wrote to us asking a very good question:

“I'm puzzled what a young cancer nurse is? Young in age or experience? Some change to cancer on their 40s or 50s. I think the word ‘young’ is perhaps not the best descriptor. It also supposes others are ‘old’ cancer nurses.

EONS gave this question careful consideration and we responded to ‘PL’ as follows:

“It is clear from feedback from both national societies and individual members that younger European cancer nurses are facing unique challenges that may not necessarily be experienced by older cancer nurses. These are to do with finding full time employment, access to education and training, professional development, developing their own peer to peer networks and the issues with workforce migration. As a series of issues, this problem is not unique to nursing but to problems that many young people face across Europe.

From working with different groups, it became apparent that the variable appeared to be age rather than number of years post qualification (nurses qualifying in their middle age face a different set of challenges that may need to be addressed elsewhere). As such, it was simply a question of identifying an age range (in this case 30 years and younger) to support with developing this community of nurses. Focusing on this new generation is also a way to develop strategies for the future of cancer nursing and to empower cancer nurses. This new generation (the ‘millennials’) is known for having specific challenges and concerns and a need for support, therefore several health societies have their specific group of young professionals.

We recognise that this may be something of a ‘blunt instrument’ as a filtering tool but recognise that we needed to start somewhere based on membership concerns. We also recognise that different members may have different opinions, so if we ask cancer nurses who are 30 and younger if they have specific concerns they may say ‘yes’ while if we asked nurses not within this age range they may answer otherwise.

As with most things this is an evolving process and we are more the happy to reflect on learning and experience and change accordingly. We also welcome further debate.

Do you have a view on this important issue, or any other. If you do, please get in touch!
14 September 2017 12:00
The Hellenic Oncology Nurses Society wants to create a young cancer nurses group following the EONS example Would you please provide us with guidance on how to do it?

Paul Trevatt, EONS Executive Board Member writes:
We are really excited that the Hellenic Oncology Nursing Society wants to develop a young cancer nursing group. To help answer your question fully, we copied it to Sara Torcato Parreira, who is our newly-appointed young cancer nurse (YCN) representative on the EONS Board, and also Rebecca Verity, another EONS Board Member and my co-colleague who has been championing the cause of YCNs across Europe.

Sara writes:
In Portugal, we followed the principles of the first YCN workshop, which was held in Athens (Stevi Sgou was present, maybe she can help you).

We sent an invitation to all of our society members who were under 30, asking them to apply for the first Portuguese YCN workshop. The workshop was held during the annual meeting of the working group members and the YCNs also had the chance to assist that. Accommodation was paid for by the national society. We had five vacancies, and people were selected through their CV, years of experience in oncology, publications/presentations in the oncology field (each item had a score).

Then, a few days before, we asked the selected ones to think about some questions - to get their own opinions as well as their YCN peers (in order to generate a debate). For example: What challenges do Portuguese YCN face? Are they similar across the country and between oncology or general hospitals? Can something be done? How can the Portuguese National Society or EONS contribute? What kind of activities should be held for YCNs? How can we reach Portuguese YCNs?

You can see some of the conclusions at:

Paul and Rebecca added:
We would definitely suggest chatting to your President, Dimitrios Papageorgiou, as having the Board support the work that you are doing would be extremely important and helpful. Also, at some point in the near future, we may be asking each national society to nominate a YCN representative and so this person may well be the link from your national society/group into EONS. We hope that helps. Please do let us know if you need anything else.
30 March 2017 3:00
The one point I will make here is that the title 'European young cancer Nurse' does not hit the mark as I think was envisaged, I assume the intent is not supposed to be age related, but more in essence of the nurse new to cancer, or new to nursing . Many nurses enter the profession as mature students - so 'young' is misleading. Could a different title be devised. Additionally ones thoughts are drawn to TYA services ( maybe in the UK only?)
01 August 2016 9:05
Hello - was interested to hear of this team, and how they are working to address some of the issues this particular cohort face. My comment is really in the name of the group 'Young' Cancer Nurses Team - I came into nursing as a second career, and at the age of 45 would, in some cases, still consider myself a Novice nurse - but not young (!) and bring to my role much of my life and professional experience that I have gained outside of nursing, which has been so valuable in terms of communication and family support, particularly. Where there is room for improvement in clinical knowledge and cancer treatments, certainly. Young nurses bring much enthusiasm and energy to these roles, which is so valuable, but perhaps the wider audience of NOVICE cancer nurses could incorporate those of us who are new to this clinical specialty - but no longer young...
28 July 2016 17:23

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