Cancer nursing and vital role The proceedings of ECCO 10, the European Cancer Conference held this autumn, served to illustrate that the 21st century will present many challenges for cancer nurses. As you read this we will be on the verge of the next century and the remark made by Diane Bachelor (The Netherlands Cancer Institute, Amsterdam) during the course of one ~)f the teaching lectures that 'the future is closer than you think', will perhaps strike a common chord. Indeed, the future, the shape of which has been earnestly debated during the last decade, will be with us. There was a consistent message at ECCO 10 that one of the most prominent challenges which cancer nurses currently face is producing the evidence or knowledge needed as the foundations for the practice of cancer nursing. As Margaret Fitch remarked in her recent Research Column in the International Society of Cancer Nursing Newsletter, cancer nurses need to consider how to develop a more cosmopolitan approach to research, education and practice development. Integral to this are the development of ideas and problem definitions which embrace a range of perspectives and experiences within project development and implementation. ECCO 10 ably demonstrated that European nurses are finding ways of incorporating views from more than one country or culture as we develop projects together. The Workflow Information Systems for European Nursing Care project, with the acronym WISECARE, described by Morven Miller (University of Glasgow, UK), demonstrated how this can be achieved and that nurses acrors Europe can work successfully in concert. Across Europe there is a growing acknowledgement of the need for role clarity in order to maximize the nursing contribution to both adult and children's cancer care. The arguments in favour, and the tactics to be employed in order to achieve it, were rehearsed in the joint European Oncology Nursing Society and E U R O Q U A N project 'Advancing Cancer Nursing Practice'. This project has enabled a network of cancer nurses across Europe to be established in order to work together to explore the common purpose of developing nursing. The projects initiated as part of this programme were reported in the dedicated symposium. Jessica Corner (Centre for EuropeanJournalofOncologyNursing3(4),203-204
© 1999 Harcourt Publishers Ltd
Cancer and Palliative Care Studies, UK) remarked in concluding this symposium that 'international collaboration is essential so that, as is often the case, experiences and ideas are not regenerated and re-lived independently, rather they are shared and developed in a coherent manner'. Cancer nurses are constantly developing and require different skills and knowledge to function adequately in a variety of settings and situations depending on the range and level of interaction. Nurses are often influential in their own organizations but such influence does not always transcend boundaries and make an impact on the wider cancer care agenda. ECCO 10 made a clear statement about the overwhelming need for effective leadership, most notably in the presentation of Wim Dellaport (Slingeland Hospital, The Netherlands) and the workshop led by Alison Ferguson (Centre for Development of Nursing Policy and Practice, University of Leeds, UK). Aspiring leaders should be identified, supported and developed. Senior cancer nurses have an obligation to first identify and then positively nurture talent, to encourage and develop leadership qualities and skills and to create a climate that enables future generations of leaders to challenge orthodoxy and take risks. Treatment and care do not occur in a vacuum. Cancer nursing does not exist in isolation; it operates at a personal level between nurses and the patients they care for and it functions in cooperation with medicine. No one professional group can claim credit for a successful outcome, although some might try! No matter how major and significant any one contribution is, it is reliant on the cooperation, expertise and commitment of other members of a caring team. As a working example of this, the presentations heard at ECCO 10 from nurses involved in clinical trials work demonstrate that they have a favourable impact on the quality of clinical research and that they have made significant progress in developing partnerships with both patients and physicians. And finally, information in all its guises is a powerful tool to support change both within individual nurses and across organizations. As Walter Sermeus (UZ Gasthuisberg, Belgium) noted in his plenary lecture, health care is
developing so fast that nobody working alone can keep track of the necessary knowledge to give appropriate care. A number of examples were presented (in both oral and poster format) that described the increased availability of information technology and innovative methods of communication to both the general public and the professions. The utility of websites have the potential to support patient dialogue with both nurses and doctors; for example, whilst patients arrive at a choice about their own treatment and care (demonstrated by the Primrose Oncology Unit, Cambridge, UK). A team from Leuven in Belgium in pioneering the use of a CD-ROM on specific side-effects of chemotherapy.
EuropeanJournalof Ontology Nursing 3 (4), 203-204
The aim is not just to secure a knowledge base, but also a knowledge-based cancer nursing service where decisions and actions are guided by evidence. ECCO 10 demonstrated that a new level of maturity has been reached by nurses engaged in cancer care, working at both an individual and collective level across Europe. Information gained through the work presented will, I believe, enable both national and European frameworks to be built in order to advance cancer nursing practices which illustrate the environment, roles and skills necessary to move cancer nursing forward.
Alison Richardson, Editor