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Guest Article: Helen Oswald, Communication Manager, European Oncology Nursing Society

The European Oncology Nursing Society (EONS) and Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan

Cancer nursing education and patient and occupational safety go hand in hand and are critical for achieving better cancer outcomes. It is vital to ensure that all cancer nurses across Europe have access to specialist training in order to address health inequalities within and between Member States. It is also essential to ensure safe care of patients in a safe working environment.

Education with cancer nursing at its core

EONS welcomes aspects of the Europe Beating Cancer Plan (EBCP) that centre on the importance of education and training of the healthcare workforce and, more specifically, the proposals for the ‘Inter-specialty cancer training programme’ but, these must have cancer nurses at their core if patient care is to keep improving. EONS is already at the forefront of driving educational development in cancer nursing. For example, the EONS Cancer Nursing Education Framework addresses the new landscape in cancer care, the expanding roles of cancer nurses in the healthcare team, and changes in educational structures. EONS has promoted the Framework to EU Member States’ Health Ministers and in many countries, it has been used as the basis for national cancer nursing programmes and to support continuing education. The Masterclass in Oncology Nursing programme run by the European School of Oncology and EONS for European advanced cancer nurses is leading the way in inter-professional cancer nurse training. In joint sessions over five days, nurses, together with physicians, update their clinical knowledge about the management of various cancers, guided by an international faculty of experts.  (There is also a Masterclass designed to meet the educational needs of cancer nurses from Eastern Europe and the Balkan region.) 

Safety first

EONS is deeply engaged in improving safety in cancer care. We have undertaken a major workplace safety survey among cancer nurses and, in response to its findings, launched a Safety Manifesto and developed a series of expert-led online patient and occupational safety webinars. EONS is passionate about reducing exposure to hazardous substances and radiation and is contributing to the Commission’s plans to update the Carcinogens and Mutagens Directive (CMD) too. It is crucial that the CMD and the EBCP recognise that there are no safe levels of exposure to cytotoxic drugs for cancer nurses who are pregnant or trying to conceive. EONS has also recently become an official campaign partner of the European Agency for and Safety at Work (EU-OSHA).

The EONS Cancer Nursing Index

As cancer care evolves and the expectations of patients change, the role of cancer nurses across the whole cancer care continuum is expanding – from prevention through treatment to survivorship; caring for children, teenagers and older cancer patients. The EONS Cancer Nursing Index (ECNI) provides a country-by-country profile of this evolution in many European countries’, as viewed from the profession itself. The profiles help support EONS’ vision (promoted through its Recognising European Cancer Nursing, RECaN, project) that cancer nursing be recognised by the cancer community and national- and European-level policy makers, as a profession requiring specialised training and qualifications. EONS President, Johan de Munter, says this about Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan:

“Cancer nurses, the largest group of cancer care professionals, have a key role in the fight against cancer in key areas like prevention, early detection, diagnosis and treatment, and quality of life of cancer patients and survivors. Unfortunately, there is a great discrepancy however in the education and recognition of cancer nursing professionals across Europe. This inequality is a major barrier to the Plan ensuring a more secure, better prepared and resilient EU in the fight against cancer.

To realise the full potential of the Plan, the cancer nursing community should be included as equal partners in education and research projects, as well as receiving financial and technical support from the EU4Health programme. Only this way can we strengthen and support the EU cancer nursing community, cancer patients, survivors, their families and carers.”

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