NEW ORLEANS—Training oncology clinical nurse specialists (CNS) in social media and eLearning can help them distribute educational materials to broader audiences of cancer patients, caregivers, and health care staff, according to research presented at the Oncology Nursing Society 37th Annual Congress.

An important role of the oncology CNS is to educate patients and caregivers, understand and manage disease, and to be familiar with the continuum of care. These specialists play crucial roles in producing and reviewing educational material that is sensitive to gender, age, race, ethnicity, and education levels.

Social media and electronic or online learning (eLearning) is increasingly used among younger and older individuals because it is easy to fit into their schedules and can be done in privacy. These methods also allow the CNSs to reach a broader audience. However, multiple learning styles and preferences require adaptability in education.

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Led by Amy Rettig, MSN, MALM, RN, ACNS-BC, CBCN, Nursing Excellence, The Ohio State University Cancer Program, Columbus, OH, researchers educated oncology CNSs in development, coordination, and facilitation of eLearning and social media for patients, caregivers, and healthcare staff. The project followed the Relationship- Based Care® model, a model of nursing care that considers relationships established through education between nurses and patients key in providing quality care.

For the study, oncology CNSs attended a series of 6 one-hour sessions led by experts that focused on building their knowledge, skills, and abilities to use eLearning and social media in their practices. The experts were knowledgeable in at least one of the following areas: general eLearning; podcasting; webinars; blogs; Facebook; Twitter; and technology. During each activity, the oncology CNS was able to practice the skill being presented and discuss best practices.

After the training sessions, each oncology CNS developed an eLearning/social media strategic plan for their specific disease population. Interventions that will highlight nursing expertise include website clinical management, podcasting, and webinars. The nurses will eventually develop basic oncology coursework for use during staff orientation, and the next generation of curriculum developers and producers will be trained and mentored in social media and eLearning practices.

“It is important for Oncology CNSs to use various modalities to provide patient, caregiver, and health care staff education that is current and reliable. Engaging with current technologies is vital to productive and efficient educational opportunities,” the authors concluded.

The study received funding from an eLearning Professional Development Grant.