Young Cancer Nurses

Big Leap forward for Young Cancer Nurses

At EONS12, EONS welcomed Amanda Drury (pictured) as our new Young Cancer Nurse (YCN) representative on the EONS Board. This position now has full voting rights, reflecting the importance that EONS puts on young cancer nurses in our organisation and as the future of the profession. EONS thanked Sara Parreira for all her hard work in establishing this role.


YCN Event plans exciting future

The first YCN event organised by UKONS in the UK has taken place in London, to provide an opportunity for networking and learning. A total of 46 YCNs attended the study day, mostly from the London area, but also from as far as Northern Ireland. The main focus was the development of YCNs as speciality nurses, as well as the progression of cancer services and treatments in the UK. Subjects included the challenges for YCNs in the UK, research in action, developments in cancer care and the integration of palliative care. The feedback was incredibly positive and the aim is to run workshops once or twice a year in different locations to optimise access. A YCN Facebook page was set up following the event for support, discussion and networking, and is open to all.


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.


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!”


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.

“I’m very grateful for this opportunity”

Sara (pictured above) 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.

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.

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.


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:


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

YCNSara Kopie
Sara Torcato Parreira, Portugal
Nurse at an Oncology Day Unit
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.
YCNStevi Kopie
Stavroula (Stevi), Greece
Nurse in Oncology Department
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.

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Useful resources for young cancer nurses

http://www.ons.org
You can find some paid online courses and practice resources

https://www.cancernurse.eu
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

http://www.ecco-org.eu/
News and events and online learning at http://ecancer.org/education/education.php

http://www.nccn.org/
You can find guidelines for professionals and patients as well as educational events and programs, including online learning

http://www.mascc.org/
You can find updated news guidelines for supportive cancer care