Mar 05, 2019 1:00 PM


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Oncology nurses face a unique set of challenges, such as managing treatment complications, symptoms, and end-of-life care. These challenges can contribute to compassion fatigue, which affects a nurse’s physical and emotional wellbeing and can lead to burnout and turnover. Research suggests that building personal resilience is a strategy for bouncing back after difficult experiences in the workplace and should be incorporated into nursing education. To help our nurses learn to deal with the challenges of oncology nursing and to build resiliency, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) implemented the Huntsman Oncology Nurse Residency (HONR) program. This 12-month nurse residency program is offered to all new-graduate nurses hired at HCI.

Through oncology-specific instruction, the HONR program provides tools and resources to help nurses be successful in their first year of clinical practice. Nurses learn all about these topics:

  • Site-specific cancers
  • Oncologic specialties
  • Treatment modalities
  • Symptom management
  • Oncologic emergencies

The program also includes high-fidelity simulation, a structured mentorship program, Q&A panels with physicians and other experts, and an evidence-based practice project. The HONR program promotes a strong sense of team and community through networking, which is linked to increased job satisfaction and decreased stress. In addition to developing clinical skills and formulating a lifelong commitment to professional nursing, HONR nurse residents are on the fast track to clinical leadership at HCI. Since 2012, 83 nurse residents have graduated from the program, and many have since moved into nurse leadership positions in the hospital.

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The HONR curriculum features resiliency topics throughout, such as practicing mindfulness and managing compassion fatigue. This helps new graduates develop personal resiliency skills that allow them to cope while meeting the challenges of oncology nursing. By being proactive instead of reactive, nurse residents can build their coping skills from the beginning.

At three points during the year-long program, HONR nurse residents take the Professional Quality of Life survey, a standardized tool used to measure compassion satisfaction, compassion fatigue, burnout, and secondary traumatic stress. Scores in all of these categories generally improve over the course of the residency year, with changes in burnout scores being the most statistically significant in our most recent cohorts. We also measure retention at one, two, and three years from initial employment. Since we began resiliency training within HONR in 2015, the nurse resident retention rate at two years is 100%.

The HONR program doesn’t just improve knowledge and retention among nurses, it also helps new oncology nursing graduates develop the ability to face inevitable challenges with strength and resiliency.

For more information about the Huntsman Oncology Nurse Residency (HONR) program, contact Cassidy Kotobalavu.

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“HONR helped me feel welcome and comfortable at HCI. I definitely feel more resilient after this program. I now know how to cope with the challenges that will always be in oncology nursing." -HONR Nurse Resident

“HONR has been a crucial component of excelling in my nursing career at HCI. It equipped me with the necessary tools and confidence as an oncology nurse. I feel increasingly more knowledgeable. Being exposed to so many different resources, topics, and people was incredibly beneficial as a new nurse." -HONR Nurse Resident

“I feel so honored to have been part of this program. If I were to talk with a nursing student who is looking for their first job, I would highly recommend them coming to HCI for this program alone. The knowledge that I’ve gained is incredible. HONR answered questions I didn’t know I had. It has created a community for me, and I feel so supported by my HONR Coordinator as well as my colleagues.” -HONR Nurse Resident

“The resiliency discussions put things into perspective for me. I realized other nurses were experiencing the same feelings and challenges I was, and I knew I wasn’t alone. It was an amazing experience for me as a new nurse.” -HONR Nurse Resident

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Nursing Cancer Care