My job

Shaping the future of oncology nursing

President of US-based Oncology Nursing Society Susan M. Schneider talks about the challenges facing the profession

President of US-based Oncology Nursing Society Susan M. Schneider talks about the challenges facing the profession.


Oncology nurses need to advocate
for accessible, affordable, quality care
for their patients,says Susan M. Schneider 

What does your job involve?

I am president of the US-based Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), a professional organisation of more than 39,000 members committed to promoting excellence in oncology nursing and the transformation of cancer care. This is a volunteer leadership position within the organisation. As president, I lead the board in oversight of strategic initiatives that advance oncology nursing and quality cancer care. I balance my ONS presidency with my role as an associate professor, lead faculty for oncology nursing at Duke University School of Nursing in North Carolina.

What do you enjoy most about your role?

Working with amazing oncology nurses from all over the United States. ONS has been vital to my professional growth. Regardless of my positions as a nurse, researcher or educator, ONS has provided me with the resources and mentors to guide me throughout my career. As president, it is an exciting chance to shape the future of oncology nursing and ensure that those resources that have been there for me are available for future oncology nurses. 

Why did you become a cancer nurse? 

As a teenager, I was hospitalised for three weeks for an acute pulmonary condition. I spent time interviewing the variety of individuals who cared for me, asking them about their jobs, and it was the nurses I felt the closest connection to. They treated me like a person, encouraged me to make decisions about my care and helped me cope. I chose oncology nursing because it challenges me to use all my nursing skills. Having a good understanding of complex physiology, treatment advances, expert psychosocial care and family support are all crucial to quality cancer care. There is never a day when I don’t feel like I made a difference.  That is a blessing!

How does the work of ONS complement the work of cancer nursing organisations in Europe, including the UK?  

When I meet with the leaders of EONS and UKONS we find we have similar goals. We want to provide nurses with the necessary resources to provide quality care for individuals with cancer. Our organisations are dedicated to supporting oncology nursing excellence and advancing the profession.

Have you a view on how cancer nursing might be affected by the Trump presidency? 

As oncology nurses we need to advocate for accessible, affordable, quality care for our patients regardless of who our national leaders are. They need to hear about the importance of symptom management, palliative care and access to treatments. We need to emphasise the essential role nurses have in the healthcare system.

What are the challenges for cancer nursing practice in the 21st century?

Numerous. The US is faced with an ageing population, many of whom have comorbidities. Cancer treatments are ever changing and complex and there is a lack of affordable, accessible care. We need more cancer care professionals, especially in rural areas. And there is a need to support oncology nurses, regardless of their role or experience level. 

What inspires you?

Individuals with cancer, as I appreciate their insights and admire their courage.

Outside work what do you enjoy?

I enjoy spending time with my family. My husband I and have two grown-up children and a grandchild and it is wonderful to watch our children engaging in their careers and starting families of their own.

What advice would you give to a newly qualified nurse in your specialty?  

Join an organisation that can be your professional home. An oncology nursing society membership will provide you with educational resources and mentors to foster your professional growth. The support you receive will be invaluable and the friendships you develop will be incredible. 

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