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A Conversation with This Year’s Winner of the AONN+ Oncology Navigation Excellence Award

TON - December 2020, Vol 13, No 6 - AONN+ News

During the Virtual 11th Annual Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) Navigation & Survivorship Conference, participants had the pleasure of celebrating the honorees of several special awards. Among those honored for their exemplary contribution in the field of oncology navigation and cancer care was Margaret Rummel, RN, MHA, OCN, NE-BC, HON-ONN-CG, Oncology Nurse Navigator at Abramson Cancer Center, Perelman Center, Philadelphia, PA, who was the recipient of the 2020 AONN+ Oncology Navigation Excellence (ONE) Award.

In this interview, Ms Rummel discusses what winning the ONE Award means to her personally and professionally and offers hope and advice to her fellow nursing professionals.

What does the AONN+ ONE Award mean to you?

It is a true honor to be recognized by my peers for doing a job that I love. This award validates the important role navigators play in the cancer trajectory. This year was especially challenging because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it had on cancer care. Our patients needed navigation more than ever. Navigation at the Abramson Cancer Center is a team effort, so I share this award with my colleagues as it truly takes a village to help patients and their families.

As navigators, we care for the whole person and no task is too big. We overcome barriers to care, provide support, and often need to think outside the box for creative solutions to the challenges our patients face while undergoing treatment.

How does it feel to be nominated by your peers for the ONE Award?

It feels amazing! I was very surprised when I saw that I was nominated for the award but never thought I would end up as a finalist, much less the winner. I am very proud to be recognized by my peers and honored to represent the valuable role navigators play throughout the continuum of care.

We are living in very stressful times. Can you share some insights that may help other nurse navigators who are facing extra challenges this year?

Everyone is stressed right now so I try to make time every day to do something that I enjoy. One of the things I have found helpful is to take some downtime for myself. I feel that time away from the job is very important to my well-being and it helps me to be a better navigator for my patients and their families.

As oncology nurses, we are always making sure that everyone else has what they need, and we forget to take time out for ourselves. Many employers have developed resources for their staff during the pandemic. I encourage navigators to take advantage of these resources.

I also find that breaking things down into smaller tasks helps me to stay focused, because some cases can be overwhelming. As I have matured, I have learned that it is also OK to leave things to the next day if they are not priority issues. It is important that we try to maintain a good work/life balance, but it is not easy. Compassion fatigue and burnout are very real consequences of our profession, so we need to take our own advice and practice self-care.

What piece of advice would you offer new and/or aspiring oncology nurses and navigators?

Oncology nursing requires physical and emotional strength. It is not always easy, but it is a privilege to be able to help people during the most vulnerable times in their lives. I have learned so much from my patients and their families. To become successful as a nurse, you must want to help people. You also need to have a lot of patience and learn how to not take everything a patient or family member says personally. Setting boundaries is important and that is something I learned along the way.

To new oncology nurses or navigators, I would say get involved in professional organizations such as AONN+ and the Oncology Nursing Society. Professional development is vital in our field because cancer care changes daily with new treatments and technology. I have met so many friends and colleagues by networking in these organizations. It is important to take advantage of the opportunities they have to offer and step out of your comfort zone.

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Last modified: December 28, 2020