Racial Crisis Forum Provides Support to Oncology Nurses During Difficult Times

A poster presented during the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Congress detailed one center’s creation of a forum to discuss racial issues impacting oncology nurses.

“[The Racial Crisis Forum at The James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute] is a program we started on our floor after the death of George Floyd. At this time, there were a lot of emotions, a lot of thoughts and feelings and fears swirling on our unit,” said Amy L. Lindsey, MS, APRNS-CNS, PMHCNS-BC, who presented the poster along with Loletia L. Davis, MS, APRN-CNS, ACCNS-AG. “At that point, Loletia and I were talking about ‘What should we do?’ We wanted to help, to support. She looked at me and said, ‘We need to have a forum.’”

The women gathered their unit and fostered “a safe space where we could speak openly about some difficult issues and get a feel for where everybody was and what the needs were,” Lindsey described. “Things sort of grew from there and spread out into not just a place for conversation and debriefing, but for education and experiential antiracism activities.”

They put out the word through virtual meetings, and sent out invitations by email, flyers, and word of mouth.

“We focused on our unit first, just to see what their needs were and to let them know how they may need to adjust or adapt to what was going on in the world at this present time and how it may affect them professionally and personally,” Davis said.

The first forum was held in person (with social distancing) with the option to join on Zoom. This first forum served to evaluate how participants were feeling and what their needs were.

At the second forum, Franklin County Sheriff Napoleon Bell came as a special guest, to discuss police culture as well as share his experience as a Black police officer.

The third forum focused on education about microaggression and ways to combat them, and the fourth forum featured a discussion of Vernā Meyer’s TEDTalk, “How to overcome our biases? Walk boldly toward them.”

The forums are scheduled every three months.

Attendance has fluctuated depending on patients’ needs, but turnout overall has been good, and those who participate have found the forum useful in their personal, professional, and community lives. The program has also been helpful in facilitating difficult conversations with patients.

“We were happy to see some repeat visitors. There was a lot of interest, a lot of intention to getting there,” Lindsey said. The women have also worked on the timing of the forums to include both day and night shift nurses.

“Since we started this, we’ve moved into a couple of other initiatives: one university- and medical center–wide initiative, which is our Anti-Racism Action Plan. We both joined a couple of committees and have been really enjoying the work that’s happening around here. We also have started to co-chair another committee for our cancer hospital as another forum for people to talk about their feelings and emotions. We’re in the process of developing a more structured intervention,” said Lindsey.

“We educate one another daily, as well as the staff,” added Davis. “It has just been a wonderful partnering to help us branch into many different things.”