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“I can’t write”
I often hear these words from colleagues when it comes to writing a clinical or research article for publication. I also have encountered several colleagues with little interest in writing because they have had no personally gratifying experiences in writing. Then I have met colleagues who simply dread the idea of setting aside ample time to deal with the rigorous process of outlining, drafting, revising, and editing a full manuscript. Whatever reason they may have, one thing is clear: Writing for publication is viewed by most nurses as a daunting task suited only to a few individuals who are willing to get involved with such a complex process.
ONS member Deborah K. Mayer, PhD, RN, AOCN®, FAAN, editor of the Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing (CJON) and associate professor in the School of Nursing at the University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill, understands why most nurses believe that they can’t write.
“It takes time, energy, and commitment to publish something,” Mayer says. Some people like to write and do it well whereas others do not, she adds. According to Mayer, a deep desire to publish—whatever the motivation—is needed to see it through.
“Going through the process can give new appreciation and respect for other authors,” Mayer explains.
Mentorship is a key strategy in overcoming the obstacles that are associated with publication. ONS member Elizabeth Ann Coleman, PhD, RNP, AOCN®, professor and Cooper Chair for oncology nursing in the department of nursing science in the College of Nursing and professor in the department of internal medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, shares some of her success stories on mentorship for publication.
“Within the past two years, I have helped students, practicing nurses, and faculty in my institution and elsewhere publish,” Coleman says.
In 2005, Coleman mentored Eileen Bannon, RN, MSN, OCN®, through the CJON Mentor/Fellow Writing Program and successfully published the article titled “Understanding Lynch Syndrome: Implications for Nursing.” Coleman also mentored students from her school of nursing with various interests, including genetics and multiple myeloma, helping them to form a team to write “Obtaining Family Histories From Patients With Cancer.”
Some of the basic guiding principles on mentorship for publication include finding out what the new writer wants to accomplish and breaking the publishing process into smaller, more achievable components, Mayer says.
“New writers must really want it and be able to persevere,” Mayer stresses.
Similar principles are echoed by Coleman. She says that it is important to help people who ask and offer help based on their needs.
“Let them choose the topic unless you know their interests and can make suggestions,” Coleman says. New writers can stick to the topic by using an outline, writing, and keeping at it, Coleman elaborates.
Writing for publication involves many revisions. According to Coleman, most of the work is in preparing a good outline and in revising. Often it is helpful for new writers to explain in their own words what they are trying to convey and write it just like they would explain it verbally, Coleman says.
Furthermore, Coleman suggests that new writers should think about a logical sequence for paragraphs and a logical sequence for sentences within the paragraphs to support the main idea in each paragraph. Coleman also emphasizes the need for others to review the initial work, and she reminds new writers that even experienced writers need helpful criticism—“We all need to help each other,” Coleman says.
Writing a manuscript takes time; it requires research and some level of expertise on the topic of interest.
“Most new authors don’t appreciate the time and effort it takes to have a quality manuscript be published, and some get discouraged without seeing the project through,” Mayer says.
Coleman agrees that the biggest challenges are getting started and sticking to a timeline.
Mentorship should matter to everyone. It creates a mutual relationship between new writers and their mentors that could last a lifetime, a legacy they can pass on to the next generation of nurses.
“I was mentored early in my career, and that was an empowering experience,” Mayer says. “I also believe that nurses can improve cancer care by sharing their knowledge and experiences with others,” Mayer adds.
“Mentorship is reciprocal because I learn and receive help as I give advice and offer guidance,” Coleman echoes.
Although the publication process is arduous and sometimes painstakingly long, the reward is great.
“Aside from seeing a new writer’s name along with his or her article in print and sharing the pleasure in these accomplishments, I also learn from those I mentor, and this is an added benefit to me,” Coleman says. “Looking to retirement, I need to help others who will take over my work, and seeing other nurses succeed in their career is a huge reward in itself.”
“Helping someone get into print and seeing someone contributing something to improve cancer nursing and cancer care is a very rewarding experience,” Mayer agrees.
Are you involved in cutting-edge cancer care? Have you developed guidelines, protocols, or unique approaches to advance the practice of oncology nursing? Have you ever wondered how to transform your ideas to a poster presentation for an ONS conference?
ONS offers an abstract mentoring program to guide novice writers in the art of abstract writing. For many nurses, the idea of submitting an abstract is rather overwhelming and often begins with just thinking, “Where do I start?” This program is designed to help you get from start to finish of writing your abstract with expert guidance of a seasoned writer. Novice abstract writers are partnered with ONS members who have experience in writing and submitting abstracts and will mentor you every step of the way.
In 2008, 70% of those who requested a mentor submitted an abstract. Of those abstracts, 86% were accepted for a poster or podium presentation.
For more information or to be paired with a mentor, contact the ONS Education Team at gro.sno@noitacude.
Do you have a hot topic that you would love to write about but are unsure of how to get started? Are you a skilled author who would enjoy sharing your expertise while mentoring a novice writer? The Clinical Journal of Oncology Nursing’s (CJON’s) Mentor/Fellow Writing Program pairs novice writers with experienced authors to turn ideas into articles.
New writers will become published professionals, learn new skills, establish themselves as experts in their specialty, receive a scholarship and public recognition, and provide important clinical information to other nurses around the world. Mentors will help build the field’s leaders of tomorrow, as well as receive an honorarium and shared authorship.
Mentors and fellows receive online orientation and virtual training, plus added support from ONS publishing and library staff throughout the nine-month process.
Apply now or throughout the year. For more information, e-mail gro.sno@NOJCbup.
Contributing Editor Joseph D. Tariman, RN, MN, ARNP-BC, OCN®, is a certified nurse practitioner and an Achievement Rewards for College Scientists and Behavioral Nursing Health Systems fellow in the School of Nursing at the University of Washington in Seattle