Cancer Education: In a Class of Its Own


The valuable role teachers hold in our communities is widely understood, but people may be less familiar with the important role that teachers play in our health care system.

Bernadine holding her Award

Bernadine holding her Award

Bernadine O’Leary is a registered nurse who has also assumed the role of a teacher. As a Clinical Educator with the Cancer Care Program, Bernadine has the important job of mentoring current and future generations of nurses in the Cancer Care Program, while also ensuring that all employees receive the specialized education they need. Bernadine’s teaching does not stop with Eastern Health; she is also a professional associate at Memorial University’s School of Nursing.

Bernadine has 20 years’ experience in the field of oncology. She worked for four years as an oncology nurse in Louisiana, during which time she received an Oncology Certification in Nursing (U.S.). Bernadine returned to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1997 to continue her work with those touched by cancer. She has worked at the Dr. H. Bliss Murphy Cancer Centre for over 16 years, and in that time the education of patients and families, the general public and colleagues has always been fundamental to Bernadine’s oncology nursing practice.

“I am very passionate about nursing education,” she says with enthusiasm. “I’ve been an oncology nurse since I graduated and have known nothing else. I love my job – it’s challenging and constantly evolving!”

Bernadine’s hard work has not gone unnoticed within Eastern Health or even nationally! She recently received a top honour – an Award of Excellence in Nursing Education from the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology (CANO). She received the award on October 22, 2013, at an award ceremony during the CANO’s 25th Annual Conference in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Humble, with regard to the tremendous contribution she has made to oncology nursing education at the local, provincial and national levels, Bernadine simply says “I am honoured to have been nominated by my peers and to be recognized by an organization such as the Canadian Association of Nurses in Oncology.”

Colleague Kathy Fitzgerald is grateful for Bernadine’s guidance. As a Cancer Patient Navigator, Kathy understands the importance of a dedicated educator in the workplace.

“I have had the privilege of working alongside Bernadine for over 15 years,” she says. “Bernadine’s commitment as an educator is obvious in her unfailing efforts to remain current within the changing landscape of oncology nursing practice, ensuring that patients and their families have well educated, compassionate and knowledgeable oncology nurses available to them.”

Other honourable mentions

(l-r): Kathy Fitzgerald, Bernadine O’Leary, Carmel Collins at CANO’s 25th Annual Conference

(l-r): Kathy Fitzgerald, Bernadine O’Leary, Carmel Collins at CANO’s 25th Annual Conference

Bernadine was not the only nurse recognized during CANO’s 25th Annual Conference Awards Ceremony. Carmel Collins, a nurse practitioner with Eastern Health’s Pain Symptom Management/Palliative Care Program, was nominated for the Award of Excellence in Nursing Clinical Practice, while Kathy also received a nomination for the Nurse of the Year award.

In addition to the national recognition received, the local CANO chapter also recognized these hard working nurses – Carmel was awarded a Nursing Scholarship, while Bernadine was the recipient of the Travel Grant, which helped with the costs of travel to the conference.

Our nurses were also featured at CANO’s 25th Annual Conference as both workshop leaders and oral presenters. Following the opening ceremonies, Carmel and Kathy presented their paper entitled Oncology and Palliative Care Partnership: Whole Person Care Inspiring an Innovative Treatment Approach and a Transformation in Clinical Practice. Bernadine also addressed conference attendees the following day to highlight a unique approach to nursing education with her presentation entitled Meeting the Standard: Striving for Excellence in Chemotherapy.

These awards, nominations and presentations reflect the expertise, experience and recognition of our nurses within the Cancer Care Program, and beyond. Congratulations to Bernadine on her award and to Kathy and Carmel on their nominations. You are great ambassadors for Eastern Health. Keep up the good work. ■

This story was written by Jackie O’Brien, a communications specialist with Eastern Health.

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