Episode 292: What We Need to Do to Retain Today’s Oncology Nursing Workforce

“With the turnover rates where they’re at now, there’s no way we can keep thinking how we did in the past—like, we have to. There’s no doubt. We have to think differently,” Deborah Cline, DNP, RN, associate professor in the Department of Graduate Studies with Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston in Texas, told Jaime Weimer, MSN, RN, AGCNS-BS, AOCNS®, manager of oncology nursing practice at ONS, during a discussion about oncology nurse retention. 

You can earn free NCPD contact hours after listening to this episode and completing the evaluation linked below.  

Music Credit: “Fireflies and Stardust” by Kevin MacLeod 

Licensed under Creative Commons by Attribution 3.0 

Earn 1.0 contact hours of nursing continuing professional development (NCPD), which may be applied to the professional practice and performance ILNA categories, by listening to the full recording and completing an evaluation at myoutcomes.ons.org by December 29, 2025. The planners and faculty for this episode have no relevant financial relationships with ineligible companies to disclose. ONS is accredited as a provider of NCPD by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. 

Learning outcome: The learner will report an increase in knowledge related to nurse retention strategies. 

Episode Notes 

To discuss the information in this episode with other oncology nurses, visit the ONS Communities.  

To find resources for creating an ONS Podcast Club in your chapter or nursing community, visit the ONS Podcast Library

To provide feedback or otherwise reach ONS about the podcast, email pubONSVoice@ons.org

Highlights From Today’s Episode 

“When you look at the data, we have over 3 million nurses in the United States. Approximately, 1.7 million of those are in the hospitals, but unfortunately, the turnover rate has nearly doubled. Just since 2019, where it was about 15.9% nationally, we are over 27% since 2021.” TS 1:45 

“The data actually shows that it’s turnover in early-career nurses. When we’re looking at that first five years of data and who’s turning over, it’s our nurses that are one to two years. Our patients are so complex. When you’re looking at staff turnover that’s early, we’re going to have a huge problem getting to the point where we can keep some of the knowledge going, and when you lose them early, it’s not good for nursing and oncology nursing in specific.” TS 3:05 

“In May of this year, we learned that nursing enrollments for entry level baccalaureate programs are down for the first time in over a 20-year period. So, that is really concerning. So, enrollments are down. There’s challenges getting clinical placements depending on where you are, not to mention that oncology clinical placements I think are even harder to come by. Some organizations feel very strongly that clinical placement in an oncology setting may not be appropriate for undergraduate students.” TS 6:06 

“A lot of children don’t understand what it is that a nurse does. When you ask them, ‘Oh, you give shots,’ and that’s your role. And so really helping kids at all ages—elementary, middle school, high school—talking to them about what nursing is, what it looks like on a day-to-day basis, the critical skills you need to the complexity of your workday, I think can really incite some younger children to understand, ‘Oh, nursing is an option for me.’” TS 8:47 

“It’s a challenge to put your head around. I could be a new grad doing this, and we all have this, you know, idealism that, ‘Oh, you have to have acute care inpatient first before you can do that,’ but we can’t, right? We can’t sustain that model. So, how are we building our programs to ensure that ambulatory care nurses that happen to be new grads in oncology are getting a solid training program with stable preceptorship and a very structured program that can be individualized to their needs?” TS 14:12 

“There’s also the aging workforce. The oncology nurses that have started in oncology or transition to oncology at any point in time—they love it. … Anecdotally, we probably have some of the most experienced nurses in many of our organizations that are in oncology. Those nurses are also looking at retiring.” TS 17:38 

“You have to have professional development opportunities. What educational opportunities? And if your organization doesn't have the funding for that, that's okay. You could promote education that might be free online or through Oncology Nursing Society. There are ways to bring your staff education that doesn't cost a lot of money, but many organizations do have an education team that may also be adding to those opportunities.” TS 20:13 

“If you're in a unit that has a lot of vacancy rates, how often are you sharing with nursing staff, ‘Okay, I've done X amount of interviews this week, or we have these new nurses coming in to join us or nursing assistants, whatever role that may be coming to join us.’  What does that timeline look like? A lot of times I think we don't promote that transparency well enough. And I think establishing that communication with your team and increasing the level of trust and transparency is so vital.” TS 26:12 

“My first organization to my second organization, I was still a stem cell transplant nurse, but the experience was different. So, we need to also trust ourselves that sometimes it's just not the right fit. And I don't think we do a good job as nursing organization and like as health care organizations supporting those types of transitions. And I think there's a lot of opportunity there.” TS 32:25 

“Ensuring that you're not picking up so much overtime, you don't have time—the downtime to take care of yourself and take care of your family and spend time and figure out what feeds your soul. I think it's so, so important to figure out what that is for yourself. And sometimes it takes a lot of reflection and exploration to figure that out. But it's worth the time in the effort to do that.” TS 41:06 

“A lot of times, it's easy to kind of get in this, ‘I'm just going to keep complaining, but I'm not going to do anything.’ But we all need to be part of the solution to get us moving forward and to stabilize the nursing shortages that we have. And unfortunately, I don't think it's going away. I think we've got several more years that we're all going to have to purposely look for solutions and work on implementing solutions to help stabilize the workforce.” TS 44:27 

“Your best resource, and I say it again, is your team, your team, your team, your team. Talk to each other. Help figure out solutions together that are going to work for your specific milieu.” TS 49:14 

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