Collective Knowledge

November 4, 2009
Colleen O'Leary

Maybe I’m naïve or maybe I just like to see the good side of people, but since I’ve been a nurse I have always heard the terrible saying that nurses “eat their young.” My experience has been anything but that.

Maybe I’m naïve or maybe I just like to see the good side of people, but since I’ve been a nurse I have always heard the terrible saying that nurses “eat their young.” My experience has been anything but that. I have experienced seasoned nurses who take every opportunity available to nurture and protect their newer colleagues. In fact, when I was a staff educator, often the manager and I would make a specific plan for a new nurse, but if we didn’t communicate that and the rationale to the more seasoned nurses and they thought we were making it too difficult, they would often question it and voice their concern for the success of the newer nurse. Eating your young? Hardly. And not that I consider myself a new nurse, but I can say I am a newer advanced practice nurse and I have never felt anything but support and encouragement from the more seasoned APN’s with whom I’ve worked. From the APN’s that mentored me through my education, to those who supported and taught me through Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), to the incredibly cohesive group of CNS’s at my new job—I am mentored, supported, helped, and encouraged. That is what encourages me and makes me proud to be not only a nurse, but an oncology nurse. Maybe it’s not the same in other clinical areas of expertise. But I can tell you for sure, it has been my experience that oncology nurses nurture and grow their young into strong, accomplished productive oncology nurses.

I experienced that again this week as I was a member of a group of oncology nurses who came together to determine the appropriate passing score for the newest Advanced Oncology Clinical Nurse Specialist Certification (AOCNS) exam. I cannot be specific about our finding or what was determined but what I can say is that it was a great experience. Not only did I learn a lot about how an exam is developed and tested and scrutinized, but more importantly I learned that when you bring together the collective knowledge and expertise of a wide array of dedicated professionals, the only outcome you can possibly have is wonderful. Through discussion, clarification, sometimes arguments but always collaboration, we were able to learn from each other’s experience, wisdom, and knowledge to come to a general agreement. We didn’t always end in consensus and no one was forced to change their own opinion. But what an incredible experience it was to see things from another’s point of view and learn, perhaps another way of looking at a situation. What one person might have read into a question, someone else was able to shed a different light on. What one person had little knowledge or confidence in, another person was able to share their expertise and knowledge. In the end, we all learned something. In the end, we could all say that we learned and produced something that we believe will be a good product to help to promote the professional development of other oncology nurses.

Collaborative knowledge. Sharing, encouraging, supporting, and searching for ways to help our fellow nurses develop their expertise and practice. Those are the things I see in oncology nurses. Eating your young? I just have not seen it. And I have confidence that I won’t in the future. Now, the opposite, “putting out to pasture,” I’m not so sure we have that one down as well. I’ll talk about that in the next blog.