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Nursing Fellowship Highly Sought After

Conquest - Fall 2010


Advanced Practice Nurses Marcia Brandert Holloway and Ashley Martin (from left) graduated this summer from the Post-Graduate Fellowship in Oncology Nursing, while Advanced Practice Nurse Liz Sorenson completed the program in 2007.
Photos: Wyatt McSpadden

Advancing oncology through advanced practice nurses


By Julie A. Penne

Advanced Practice Nurse Marcia Brandert Holloway belongs to an exclusive group.

She is one of only 10 graduates of MD Anderson’s Post-Graduate Fellowship in Oncology Nursing, the only such in-depth program for advanced practice nurses in oncology in the nation. Holloway and Advanced Practice Nurse Ashley Martin graduated in August as the fifth class to complete the intense, year-long program. Three new fellows, with a wide range of backgrounds, started the program in September.

Open to nurses or nurse practitioners with a minimum of a clinical master’s degree in nursing, the fellowship includes work in the classroom, many short clinical
rotations through multiple areas and a concentrated longer-term specialty rotation of the fellow’s choice, under the supervision of an advanced practice nurse preceptor. Participants attend post-graduate courses through The University of Texas School of Nursing at Houston and classes at MD Anderson, earning a joint post-master’s certificate in oncology.

They also conduct an evidence-based practice project with the goal that it be published in a peer-reviewed journal or presented at a national nursing forum. Since the fellowship began, six fellows have presented evidence-based projects at the Oncology Nursing Society annual meetings and two others have presented to a relevant clinical practice group conference. In addition, one has had a manuscript accepted for publication and two other fellows have manuscripts pending.

Carrying nursing excellence forward

According to Joyce Dains, Dr.P.H., J.D., an advanced practice nurse who leads the fellowship and the advanced practice nurse program, three of the program’s 10 graduates have come from MD Anderson and seven remain with the institution. The other three graduates have taken positions in other hospitals where they share their expertise every day with patients and colleagues. That, too, is part of
MD Anderson’s education mission.

“While this fellowship meets our education mission, through it we also can carry forward our standard of nursing excellence and cancer care,” Dains says. “It’s a highly sought-after fellowship nationally because of its breadth, depth and length, and because it’s based at MD Anderson.”

Though only two or three fellows are selected each year, there typically are 30 to 40 applicants. For Dains and others on the selection committee, the tipping point in the selection process often is the genuine spark and passion for oncology. The majority of fellows have come from across the nation, while Holloway and Martin are two of three from the MD Anderson nursing community.

Holloway, who worked as a clinical nurse in MD Anderson’s bone marrow and stem cell transplant inpatient unit for almost nine years, says she developed an even better understanding of the complexity of cancer and the many personal variables that patients and caregivers face. In August, she was hired as an APN in the Department of Genitourinary Medical Oncology.

“Cancer is a very individual disease, not only in terms of biology, but also with variables such as family support, faith and finances. I learned how to better take all of these into consideration with this fellowship,” she says. “It also broadened my exposure and knowledge of solid tumors since I came from a unit that cared for so many patients with leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma.”

A survivor of leukemia thanks to a bone marrow transplant she had in her 20s, Holloway says the fellowship was one more way to give back to the medical community that saved her life. Treated in her native state of Nebraska, she says the nurses who cared for her molded her career path, and she hopes to be a significant influence for patients and colleagues at MD Anderson.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center