The Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) is a professional nursing organization dedicated to promoting excellence in oncology nursing in the U.S. and globally. They work with researchers, health care professionals, and legislators, to improve cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment (Oncology Nursing Society [ONS], 2019a).
As a part of their policy agenda, they advocate for better quality cancer care, increased patient and staff safety, nursing education, Medicare coverage for oncology nursing services, and empowering oncology nurses to “practice to the full extent of their licensure” (ONS, 2019a, p.1). Advocacy for these issues includes appeals to change federal policies to better suit the health care professionals’ and patients’ needs, as well as provide better education to nurses, and increase research funding to provide an evidence base for the legislation.
Quality Cancer Care
Quality cancer care advocacy is a broad category on the organization’s policy agenda. It ranges from advocating for new oncology research and better research funding to lobbying for legislative change. Part of the ONS efforts in preventing cancer is targeting tobacco smoking, including vaping and electronic cigarettes. The organization has issued a position statement that suggests that such devices are regulated as tobacco products and, therefore, labeled and packaged as such (ONS, 2019b). As such, their sale should be prohibited to individuals under the age of 21, and their use should be restricted in public transportation, public schools, and on aircraft (ONS, 2019b).
In addition to advocating for these legislative changes, ONS advises that nurses inform their patients about the potential harm of vaping and electronic cigarettes, and offer tobacco cessation alternatives (ONS, 2019b). These measures are aimed at the reduction of tobacco product use, especially among people under 21 years of age.
These efforts are addressing the fact that not enough evidence on the potential harm of vaping and electronic cigarettes, compared to that of regular tobacco products, is currently available. Thus, the extent to which the devices in question can lead to cancer, and whether they can be used as a cessation alternative, is unclear. Once such evidence is obtained, nurses will be better able to inform their patients about the potential harm of these devices or their potential application as a tobacco cessation alternative.
This research will also improve the evidence base for lawmaking regarding alternative tobacco products. If a link between cancer and these alternative tobacco products exists, then legislation limiting their sale to minors or mandating warning labels will decrease the incidence of tobacco-related cancers, thus allowing nurses more time with each of their patients.
To further their oncological research goals, which include the relationship between cancer and tobacco product use, ONS participates in the Cancer Moonshot Initiative. The Initiative focuses on the early detection and prevention of cancer (National Cancer Institute, n. d.).
In 2016, members of ONS represented oncology nursing in Vice President Joe Biden’s roundtables discussing the Initiative; three of them were “appointed to the National Cancer Institute Blue Ribbon Panel to advise the National Cancer Advisory Board as part of the National Cancer Moonshot Initiative” (ONS, n. d.). The research performed under the Initiative can provide nurses with more information on preventive measures, which can then be passed on to their patients.
Workforce and Education
The ONS’s policy agenda includes a focus on improving nursing education. Currently, the organization is advocating for two legislative acts that fall under this category: the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA) and the Nurse Education Act (ONS, 2019a). The latter, which the ONS suggests that Congress reauthorize and increase its federal funding, would improve nurses’ and nursing students’ access to high-quality professional education. Therefore, a better-qualified nursing workforce will be available to staff health care institutions. Ultimately, better-qualified nursing specialists will be able to provide better patient care as well as better adapt to the rapidly evolving role that professional nurses play in modern health care.
The second bill that the ONS is advocating for, PCHETA, aims to provide support for Palliative Care and Hospice Education Centers, which will provide the necessary training in palliative care to health care providers. Palliative care is critical to patients suffering from cancer and other severe illnesses (ONS, 2017). It can bring significant improvements in the quality of life, patient and family satisfaction, and life expectancy of such patients (ONS, 2017).
The bill, in addition to establishing education centers, will also fund research to improve the evidence base for palliative care and promote awareness of palliative care among patients and health care professionals (ONS, 2017). Improvement in these areas is necessary to match the increasing demands for palliative care as the U.S. population grows older and the number of patients suffering from severe illnesses increases.
Currently, palliative care faces serious issues that prevent it from being rendered to patients whose lives can be significantly improved by it. The ONS (2017) states that there is insufficient awareness of its benefits among patients and health care providers. There are not enough specialists who receive training and education in palliative care to provide it to the increasing number of patients living with serious illnesses (ONS, 2017).
Furthermore, the training provided to current students in this field and related subjects is extremely limited (ONS, 2017). These issues can be resolved through funding an education and awareness campaign, as outlined in the PCHETA. To further the advocacy of this bill, the ONS, together with other professional health care organizations has signed an open letter in its support to Congress (ONS, 2017).
Similar to the Nurse Education Act, PCHETA will improve the overall nursing qualifications regarding palliative care. More specialists in this field will be able to provide palliative care to more patients who need it, and increased awareness and education options will also increase the demand for nurse educators in this area. Finally, added research into the benefits and strategies of palliative care will enable nurses to provide a higher standard of quality of care as more advanced and efficient methods and strategies are developed.
ONS seeks to provide a better standard of care for patients suffering from cancer. The legislation it puts effort into advocating is aimed at altering laws that will allow some cases of cancer to be prevented, specifically, ones related to tobacco use. There is also a significant focus on improving the education of nurses, both in general and specifically in the field of palliative and hospice care, which will affect patients living with severe illnesses not limited to cancer. Most importantly, the legislation advocated by ONS includes increased research funding, providing a strong evidence base for the proposed law changes, and the potential to discover new means of treating or preventing cancer.
National Cancer Institute. (n. d.). Cancer Moonshot. Web.
Oncology Nursing Society. (2017). PCHETA (H.R. 1676) Support Letter. Pittsburgh, PA: Author. Web.
Oncology Nursing Society. (2019a). Oncology Nursing Society Legislative and Regulatory Health Policy Agenda 116th Congress, 1st Session. Pittsburgh, PA: Author. Web.
Oncology Nursing Society. (2019b). Position Statement from the Oncology Nursing Society: Use of E-Cigarettes and Vaping. Pittsburgh, PA: Author. Web.
Oncology Nursing Society. (n. d.). Our History. Pittsburgh, PA: Author. Web.