Connie Henke Yarbro, RN, MS, FAAN, has had a long career caring for patients during the most difficult time in their lives. Her nursing career started in the ER and progressed to include many other titles - oncology nurse, educator, author, editor, Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) founder, treasurer, and president, as well as board member of numerous cancer nursing associations.
In between writing and updating chapters for her best-selling oncology nursing texts and references, Connie shared with us some of the most memorable highlights in her career and the advancements in oncology nursing.
Jones & Bartlett Learning (JBL): How did you become interested in your area of specialty?
Connie Henke Yarbro (CHY): I was working in the ER at the University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham when I interviewed for a new position at the Comprehensive Cancer. President Nixon had passed the National Cancer Act in 1971 and new programs were being developed. I was hired as Nurse Coordinator for a Statewide Chemotherapy Program. At that time, there were not any medical oncologists in the community in Alabama and most cancer patients had to travel to Birmingham for treatment. After patients with Hodgkin disease and children with leukemia received their first treatment, I would travel to their family practitioners office to give them their second treatment.
This program began my career in oncology nursing. At that time, there were very few oncology nurses so a group of us across the country met to discuss the need for a specialty organization. After several meetings, four of us established the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) in 1975. Thus, I have been in this specialty for close to 50 years.
(JBL) What has been the most influential or pivotal moment in your career?
(CHY) My involvement with cancer nursing. I was first Treasurer of ONS, served as President for two terms;established the Oncology Nursing Foundation in 1981 and served as President for 5 years; was elected to the board of the International Society of Nurses in Cancer Care (ISNCC) and then President for 6 years. I have had the opportunity to teach and work with nurses worldwide.
Another pivotal moment was when I established Seminars in Oncology Nursing, a review journal of oncology topics 35 years ago. I just retired as Editor this year (2020). I have also had the fortunate opportunity to serve as one of the Editors of Cancer Nursing: Principles and Practice, now in its 8th edition. Other books include Cancer Symptom Management, Oncology Nursing Review and Breast Care Certification Review.
(JBL) What changes in your field excite you? Or what areas do you think need to be changed?
(CHY) There have been so many changes since I began my career in the specialty of cancer nursing. What is exciting is all the new research and development of new drugs and therapies for patients. Today patients are living longer and the number of Cancer Survivors is tremendous.
(JBL) Tell us how you motivate your students. Ex: are you’re using some cool, non-traditional approach in the classroom?
(CHY) I work primarily with oncology nurses. As Editor, I have had the chance to mentor many nurses to experience serving as a Guest Editor and mentored nurses in publishing and leadership
(JBL) Have you recently been nominated for an award or recognized by your school or department for excellence? If so, tell us about it.
(CHY) I have been awarded Honorary Alumni membership at the University of Missouri Sinclair School of Nursing and University of Alabama School of Nursing in Birmingham, Alabama and Royal Marsden Hospital in London, England. I have received the Distinguished Service award from ONS and their Lifetime Achievement Award. There are other numerous awards but the highlight of my life was the Living Legend Award from the American Academy of Nursing.
(JBL) Are you involved in any community or philanthropic projects you would like to share?
(CHY) I have served on the Board of IMPACT 100 of Northwest Florida, which provides grants to nonprofit organizations in the community.
(JBL) What advice do you have for today’s students?
(CHY) When you find a specialty area you love and want to get more involved professionally, find a colleague who can serve as a mentor. Also, continue to pursue you education. I graduated from a Diploma program and over the years went back to school to get my BSN and MS.
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