Hollings nurses take leadership roles in Lowcountry chapter of Oncology Nursing Society, promote participation among cancer nurses

January 08, 2024
oncology certified nursing (OCN) nurses Claudia Miller and Amy Tamblyn
Claudia Miller, R.N., left, and Amy Tamblyn, R.N., have their OCN certifications and are taking on leadership roles in the Lowcountry chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society. Photo by Clif Rhodes

For two nurses at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center, having and maintaining an oncology certified nursing (OCN) credential is a point of pride – a reflection of their deep knowledge of the intricacies of caring for people with cancer.

Many nurses at Hollings have this certification, but Claudia Miller, R.N., the lung cancer nurse navigator, and Amy Tamblyn, R.N., a radiation oncology nurse, have taken their professional development a step further, becoming heavily involved in the Lowcountry chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS).

In 2024, they’ll occupy two of the top board positions at the chapter: Miller takes over as president while Tamblyn steps up as president-elect. They believe that Tamblyn is the first radiation oncology nurse to be elected to that position.

Miller said she’s a big proponent of getting involved in the society, which provides access to in-person and online continuing education as well as networking with other nurses, near and far, involved in cancer care. Tamblyn said she’s shared ideas with nurses across the country.

There are also opportunities to shape nursing practice. Miller is editing a chapter in a forthcoming ONS book on nurse navigation while Tamblyn is serving on a committee working to develop a separate certification for radiation oncology nursing.

Although those outside the medical field might not realize it, nurses have their own professional practice, Miller pointed out. They complement the work of physicians, but they have their own guidelines. Thus, to achieve OCN status, they have to pass a comprehensive test.

“You have to study everything,” Tamblyn said. “You've got to study every cancer, every treatment. You have to know your statistics.”

“History. There’s nursing history in there, too, and oncology history,” Miller added.

That extensive knowledge means that patients can be confident that their oncology certified nurse hasn’t popped in for the day from orthopedics or neurology but is an expert in cancer care.

“It makes you practice as a safer nurse,” Tamblyn said.

For example, Tamblyn said, nurses need to be able to recognize rashes caused by certain immunotherapies or a phenomenon called “radiation recall,” an inflammation at the site of previous radiation therapy that can flare up after certain chemotherapy medications are given.

“It's our job to pick up on those things and bring it to the physician,” Miller said.

Miller and Tamblyn are also eager for new and less-experienced nurses to take part in the society. The Lowcountry chapter includes not just hospital-based nurses but also nurses from doctors' offices and hospice care from across the Tri-county region, giving them a broad view of what’s happening in cancer care here.

“We get to learn about all these new treatments, and we get to network and see our friends,” Tamblyn said.

“We also do a lot of community outreach, whether it is for student nurses or the Hope Lodge or the Fisher House or awareness walks,” Miller said. “So we give back to the community as well, not just our own nursing community.”