ONS Keynote Lifts Nurses' Spirits Through Laughter and Tears


Following the lively opening ceremony, was an even livelier keynote lecture, which was given by Selinza Mitchell, CNE.

Following the lively opening ceremony, was an even livelier keynote lecture, which was given by Selinza Mitchell, CNE, a nurse consultant and educator. Not only was the audience treated to a beautiful rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” which Mitchell sang to kick off the lecture, but to a session that was superior to most comedy routines, yet delivered many profound messages as it lifted the spirits of the audience and reminded oncology nurses through laughter and tears why they do the things that they do.

Cultivating understanding

Mitchell had started in nursing at the age of 14 as a candy striper, and it is clear that she is as passionate about her profession now as she was when she first started working in healthcare. She relayed the story of one of the patients she treated as a home healthcare nurse. The patient was a disabled woman who lived alone and relied on strangers for emotional support. When Mitchell first visited the woman, the woman asked her to sign an autograph book, but Mitchell had already gone into nurse mode and proceeded to check the woman's vital signs, conducted a thorough exam, and performed all her nursing duties, during which the woman engaged her in lively conversation. Once the job was done, the woman's continuous chatter made it difficult for Mitchell to leave, and as Mitchell had almost made her way out the door, the woman reminded her about the autograph book. Mitchell put her bags down and signed it, an act that would leave a lasting impression on her. She realized that “understanding is vital,” and although she had been thorough in addressing her patient's physical needs, she realized that what the patient really needed was the interaction and human contact. Mitchell told the audience, “sometimes the treatment is you,” and she encouraged nurses to take the time to understand their patients and their unique needs. While her patient's request to sign an autograph book may seem strange to some, Mitchell relayed that her patient read the entries at night to feel connected to others.

Mitchell also relayed the story of a woman whose mother she had treated. The woman ran into Mitchell years after her mother had passed away and thanked Mitchell for the kindness she had exhibited and all she had done to help her mom. Although Mitchell did not recall the woman's mom or having done anything special, she realized that understanding the needs of patients and their families can have a profound impact on them. “You have magic in your touch, but you are so busy, you didn't realize the magic that you do,” she said, noting that oncology nurses impact countless lives on a daily basis. As such, she also noted the importance of nurses caring about themselves and understanding their own needs. “Nurturing strangers without thinking about it is why nurses need to be lifted up,” she said, and proceeded to ask the audience, “how can you take care of the world if you can't take care of yourself?”

Importance of perception

In addition to cultivating a keen sense of understanding, Mitchell also discussed the importance of perception. She asked the audience, “can you benefit by being given the opportunity to explain to your coworkers what you do on the job?” Oncology nursing is a demanding profession, and one that can lead to a decrease in job satisfaction as the daily intellectual, physical, and emotional demands add up. She noted one way to combat this is to understand what one's coworkers are doing and recognize that “a good nurse doesn't know everything, but knows where to find the answers.” Teamwork is imperative, said Mitchell, noting there is no “I” in “Team.” She also said that small gestures, such as smiling, sends big signals and is important to creating a pleasant work environment.

Mitchell encouraged the audience to serve as mentors, saying “we have to nurture our younger nurses.” She noted that some nurses get into nursing purely for financial reasons, but that nursing “is not just a job” and shouldn't be perceived as such by anyone. She noted that nurses touch people's lives every day, and she challenged each member of the audience to remember how many people they have touched. “Your level of caring is priceless,” she noted, stressing that nurses are also priceless and that “they can't put enough zeros in your check to pay you what you are worth.”

A summary of points

Mitchell's lecture concluded with the following bullet points: (1) Understand your value; (2) Understand we are all on the same team; (3) Be an energized advocate; (4) Watch your value increase daily; (5) When you know more, you will care more; and (6) We are all “Directors of Lasting Impressions.” As nurses exited the exhibit hall, it was clear that this lecture had left an impression on them.

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