UKONS Hosts Well-Evaluated Second Virtual Conference

From the 11th to 13th November 2021 UKONS hosted our second virtual annual conference on the theme of ‘Caring Connections’. We felt that his theme reflected the struggles, challenges, and indeed successes, of nurses continuing to support patients and our colleagues into the second year of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Regrettably the pandemic also resulted in the cancellation (for the second year running) of our planned ‘in person’ conference in Belfast and the enforced rescheduling of this to November 2022. We are very hopeful of actually making it to Belfast this time.

We were keen to ensure that the success of our first virtual conference in 2020 was followed up by an equally successful conference this year. This proved to be the case, and this year’s conference has been, once again, well evaluated. This has been down to the commitment of our media partners and secretariat provider Media1. Again, the conference virtual platform proved to be both reliable and easy to navigate.

Considering formal evaluations, 331 people attended the conference, which is in line with our normal attendance and similar to that of last year’s virtual conference. 94 posters were submitted which was around 20% higher than last year. The event was very well evaluated overall with 89% of delegates rating it either ‘very good’ or ‘excellent’ (4 or 5). Only 6 delegates rated it below 3 (good) and only 1 delegate rated the scientific programme as less than 3.

UKONS president Dr Verna Lavender formally opened the conference on the Thursday and following this Professor Dame Jessica Corner spoke passionately about the challenges of cancer nursing leadership. This was a very strong presentation which was rated highly by many delegates. Following this Dr Anna Olsson-Brown presented on immunotherapy and the management of side effects. Issues around immunotherapy are some of the most popular topics requested by our membership and one of the themes running through our conference. Anna gave a presentation which was packed with high quality information and was a good introduction to the subject. Our highly-rated Roche-sponsored industry session then encouraged delegates to consider their own mental health and gave some hints and tips on developing resilience in a demanding environment.

Dr Lesley Smith then presented on her experience of helping to develop the personalised care agenda and why she believes it is so important before another sponsored session by Perci Health considered the role of their digital system, and how it might assist in patients’ ongoing care.

During the last year UKONS have continued to champion openness and evidence-based discussions around sexual health in cancer and board member Kay Bell then introduced and chaired a session on promoting sexual health after cancer in a digital age. This was presented by Dr Isabel White who is both a cancer nurse and psychosexual counsellor.

Day two of the conference featured a brilliant range of oral presentations by a selection of our poster authors. At our previous virtual conference this was one of the strongest sections of the conference and, once again the variation and quality of the projects and presentations was amazingly high. It was also really encouraging to see so many of the presenters being young or early career cancer nurses.

The remainder of the day was filled, firstly with a well-evaluated industry session on developing immunotherapy services, with Ali Hodge and Jacqui Warden presenting two different models of nurse-led services and then with Dany Bell presenting on developing the nursing workforce in genetics and genomics. The end of Friday brought our on-line social event, this was the ransom virtual escape room game provided by Eventurous Ltd. which tested the problem-solving skills of our members. Team 2 proved victorious with an apparently record-breaking performance. Well done all who participated!

The final day of the conference began with a presentation by Nikki Cannon who outlined the pivotal role of nurses in delivering stratified follow up and the importance of this being integrated with other elements of the personalised care agenda. This proved to be a popular session with a healthy discussion to follow (and continued on Twitter!) The final industry sponsored session was presented by Gilead, with Fiona MacLean and medical oncologist Dr Mark Harries discussing advances in the treatment of triple-negative breast cancer. This was a presentation packed with useful factual information followed by a lively Q and A session.

As in 2020 the interactive break-out sessions proved popular with delegates. UKONS board members and members of our young/early career cancer nurse group chaired clusters of presentations on the themes of ‘Conducting online consultations’, ‘Living with long term effects of immunotherapy’ and ‘Working across international borders’. These were able to be run concurrently on the conference platform with recorded versions available very quickly afterwards. There was generally good feedback on all of these sessions.

The UKONS poster awards were then presented by Kay Bell, the winners being

1st Prize Poster: ‘SPINE mnemonic in the management of metastatic spinal cord compression’ by Sophie Needham.

2nd Prize Poster: Implementation of a SACT pre-administration ABCDEF safety checklist for nurses’ by Danielle Casey.

3rd Prize Poster: Demystifying the role of a Cancer Research Nurse: Making cancer research and attractive career’ by Ben Hood.

Young/Early Career Cancer Nurse Poster Award: ‘Forging an Identity: the perceptions of newly qualified Advanced Nurse Practitioners in a cancer hospital’ by Emma Matthews.

These posters were voted for by the delegates.

Dr Verna Lavender closed the academic programme by presenting the President’s Award to Sandra Campbell who has completed 6 years of service on the UKONS board and will shortly retire after a lifetime of dedicated cancer nursing. Mark Foulkes (President Elect and incoming president) then closed the conference and thanked Dr Verna Lavender for her inspiring presidency.

UKONS would like to thank all presenters, sponsors, delegates, and our secretariat at Media1 for making the conference a resounding success.

The next UKONS conference will be a ‘face to face’ event and will take place in Belfast on 11-12 November 2022 – Hold the date!