Highlights from the 17th International Conference on Cancer Nursing

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Published: 21 Sep 2012
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Greta Cummings – President of the International Society of Nurses of Cancer Care

Greta Cummings talks to ecancer at ICCN 17, in Prague, about the recipients of the Distinguished Merit Award and highlights of the International Conference on Cancer Nursing.


Ms Cummings also discusses the educational impact ICCN as it brings oncology nurses together from around the globe and increases their knowledge through collaboration, networking and discussion. The ‘ISNCC’ has also begun to prioritise the writing of guidelines in various areas and create online educational programs.

To view our education modules for nurses to help prevent tobacco use, please click on this link: Nursing education modules


Highlights from the 17th International Conference on Cancer Nursing

Greta Cummings – President of the International Society of Nurses of Cancer Care

Can you tell us about the recipients of the Distinguished Merit Awards

The Distinguished Merit Awards that are given by the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care are to recognise the exemplary impact that a cancer nurse has on a global scale, on an international scale. We usually have one award at each biannual conference but this year we had two because we had two remarkable individuals who have done amazing work over many, many years. The first one is Dr Stella Bialous who is a native of Brazil but resides in the US. She has done a phenomenal amount of advocacy and research on tobacco cessation programmes. She’s worked with the WHO and many governments to advocate for tobacco cessation programmes to highlight the effects of tobacco on mortality and its incidence of cancer. So what she was able to show in her remarks this morning, after receiving this award, is the tremendous number of lives that could be saved if we would just focus on tobacco cessation around the world.

Virginia Gumley is a nurse who was born in Belfast and spent many years in the UK and has, again, advocated for cancer nursing education programmes and setting up palliative care and hospice care programmes in many countries. One of those countries that she’s actually worked extensively in is Russia where she was asked to come and make some presentations and then over a period of years she helped them set up a palliative care hospice programme. So they have recognised that many years later by giving her an honorary professorship at the university because it’s such remarkable work that she has done. She is currently the Director of Nursing in the hospital and cancer centre in Pakistan and she has established over the last ten years the Pakistan Oncology Nursing Society. So she has been able to develop an entire programme of palliative care and oncology nursing in a country like Pakistan. So they’re both marvellous examples.

What do you think about the educational impacts of the conference?

The International Cancer Care Nursing Conference, we put it on every two years and it’s hosted by the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care. We use it as an opportunity to bring nurses together from around the world and we host it in a variety of countries and continents around the world to increase the access to the conference, to the knowledge that’s shared here for oncology nurses. This is now our 17th cancer conference and we have actually some nurses who have been to every one and we have many others who have been to most of them. So they also look forward to connecting with their colleagues around the world again to share friendships and to share knowledge. What the focus of the International Cancer Care Conference is is to really increase the capacity and the knowledge for cancer nurses and nurses who work with individuals with cancer, so the nurses themselves may not have a lot of specialised knowledge and training yet but they get some of that when they come to these meetings and they get connected with a mentor and a senior oncology nurse. Then they may be able to take an additional specialised training programme where they can have specialised knowledge and skills to really impact a wider number of cancer patients back in their home community. So what we really emphasise at ISNCC is the role of the nurse in the entire cancer control spectrum. We believe strongly and we have evidence that nurses are an excellent investment in the cancer control spectrum from screening patients to education to managing cancer distress to obviously assisting with treatment and providing skilled cancer care and right through to palliation and end of life care. So the cancer nurse around the world is an absolutely invaluable part of cancer control.

Is the ICCN involved in policy and guideline writing along with other organisations?

Actually we are; we have, in fact just in this last two months, established a Board of Directors Portfolio for Policy because we think it’s a high priority. We have always been in the business of developing policy and writing position statements but we see an added emphasis here and we have also made it a priority that we will develop partnerships with other international cancer control groups. We are a partner with UICC, it’s the Union International for Cancer Control. Our past President is, in fact, a board member, Sanchia Aranda is a board member on that board, and we also are an affiliate of the ICN, the International Council of Nurses. So we use those relationships as a mechanism to spread the word, to collaborate on policy, to get position statements out. For example, one of the position statements that we’ve had for many years is certainly the tobacco cessation policy statement and we continue to reinforce that and revise it and review it and strengthen it as much as possible. Another major concern is pain control and so we have just revised our statement on the nurse’s role in managing pain and that was just approved, in fact, in the last two days at our Board meeting. So we’ll be issuing that shortly. It will be posted on our website and shared widely, so we do dissemination actively as well as posting it on the website.

Do you have any educational tools on the website?

We are beginning to; we’ve been working with a number of foundations to develop educational programmes. Our most recent one was funded through GSK, GlaxoSmithKline. They funded an education programme whereby we could actually bring together nursing experts from around the world. What many people have found around the world is that there are considerable side effects with oral therapy that initially weren’t recognised in the way that IV chemotherapy is recognised. So patients were going home with this medication with no training, with no education, no support. So we have many nurses now who are experts and they are now training other nurses as to what to teach patients as to how to look after themselves and how to manage the treatments and when to call for help. So that’s one example that is publically available and we do plan to have many other ones. With the focus of this conference being on patient safety, developing a position statement on the nurse’s role in managing safety with patients is going to be one of our next policy statements.