Oncology nursing is one of the many nursing specializations that emerged in the 21st century. With technological advancement, changes in the health care delivery system, and the new trends in cancer treatment, more nurses are drawn to oncology nursing. This week, we gained special access to the world of oncology nursing by having a special conversation with Dr. Joseph Tariman – a Filipino nurse who spent almost 15 years in this field.
Dr. Joseph Tariman earned his Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from the University of the Visayas in 1991. Two years after, he finished his masters of Arts degree in nursing (MAN) at Cebu Doctor’s University. In 2001, he also earned a post-Masters certificate in Adult Health at the University of Miami. Since that time, he has been an advanced practitioner in oncology specializing in multiple myeloma. He has also worked as an advanced practice nurse from the year 2010 to 2013 at the Northwestern University Myeloma Program in Chicago, where his primary responsibility was sub-principal investigator for all Phase 1 and 2 clinical therapeutic trials for Myeloma. In June 2011, Dr. Tariman obtained his PhD at the University of Washington where he also received a research fellowship fund from the National Institute of Health and the Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation.
He is the recipient of numerous awards including the 2011 Honored Nurse of the Year Award from the Chicago Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, 2012 Nurse of the Year Award from Leukemia Research Foundation, and the 2013 Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Publishing’s Outstanding Achievement for Oncology Nursing Education or Family/Patient Education Award. He was elected by his local ONS Chicago chapter to be the director-at-large for 2014 and is also leading the research committee.
His extensive clinical experience has led him to conduct researches and publish journal articles in the field of hematology-oncology nursing. He has authored over 75 published articles, abstracts, monographs, and five book chapters on various topics including multiple myeloma. He has served as a contributing editor for ONS and a column writer for Advance for Nurse Practitioners. He is an editorial review board member of two globally known journals namely, Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing (CJON) and Oncologic Nurses Forum (ONF). He is also one of the founding members of the International Myeloma Foundation’s Nurse Leadership Board (IMF NLB) and the Chairman of its research committee. In 2010, he edited a groundbreaking nursing book on multiple myeloma published by the ONS. His new writing stint will be co-editing the 2nd edition of An Evidenced-Based and Treatment-Focused Approach to Myeloma Nursing Care which is scheduled for release in May 2015.
Let’s get a sneak peek of Dr. Tariman’s professional life as an oncology nurse and ponder on his career advices for student nurses interested in the this specific field of nursing.
How did you get started in the field of oncologic nursing and what types of preparation does someone need to pursue this specific career?
I started working in hematology-oncology unit at University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in 1999 while studying in their Adult Heath Nurse Practitioner Program with subspecialty in Gerontology. The major influence of venturing into the field of hematology-oncology came from my sister (who is also a Nurse Practitioner) and brother-in-law (a Hematologist). They are both very passionate in caring for patients with breast cancer. There is no additional nursing education or training required to enter the field of hematology-oncology, but an oncology board certification and a specialty on one type of disease is definitely essential to establish expertise in the field of cancer nursing.
In 2002, I decided to specialize in the care of patients with myeloma (cancer of the plasma cell) because it primarily affects the older adult population with a median age of diagnosis at 67 years old. My graduate education and training in gerontology has been very useful in the care of older patients diagnosed with myeloma.
What are some of the health settings or specialties that an oncology nurse might work in?
In large academic centers, a specialty in hematology-oncology practice is typically tumor-specific. This means that a nurse or nurse practitioner could work for breast cancer clinics, lymphoma clinics, or myeloma clinics only. I have worked as a dedicated myeloma nurse practitioner for the past 15 years. However, in a small community-based practice, nurses and nurse practitioners typically manage patients with various types of cancer.
In general, are there any specific traits of a nurse that are vital in this nursing career?
Because most cancers are now considered a chronic disease, I believe an oncology nurse must be authentically compassionate and caring for the patients from the time of diagnosis to the end-of-life phase. Patients and their families put their trust on their oncology care team and this is why being compassionate and caring at all times play an important role in maintaining the integrity of a nurse-patient relationship which is largely built on trust.
What advice can you give to student nurses who are interested in this field?
If a student is interested in hematology-oncology nursing, I would highly recommend them to seek out potential preceptors and mentors who are capable enough to guide them. They must also look for apprenticeships in hematology-oncology even if they are still students.
Exposure to the practice will help solidify the students’ interest in hematology-oncology nursing. Don't listen to what others say about hematology-oncology (e.g., it's depressing to care for patients with cancer). The student must personally experience hematology-oncology practice first before saying “No” to hematology-oncology. Oncologic nurses will tell you that, “being an oncology nurse is the most rewarding career experience” and I couldn't agree more on this.
In the last few years, what changes have the field of oncologic nursing undergone?
The proliferation of new cancer therapies, particularly oral chemotherapies, molecularly-based target therapies, and genomic-based decisions for cancer treatment are among the recent changes in oncologic nursing. Collaborative and multidisciplinary decision making is also imminent in hematology-oncology practice. With this shift in care model from patriarchal (physician-driven) to shared model (patient and physician-driven), the oncology nurses’ role in educating patients and advocating patients’ autonomy throughout the decision making process is also intensified. All these changes present both challenges and opportunities for oncology nurses to make a difference in the care for cancer patients and their families. At the end of the day, enhancing the cancer patients’ quality of life is still the main focus of oncologic nursing.