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Celebrating Oncology Nursing Month: Idalis Figueroa ’20 BSN Reflects on Her Oncology Fellowship and New Career

Idalis Figueroa '20 BSN stands in the hallways of her medical oncology unit

The summer of 2019 was a game changer for rising senior nursing student Idalis Figueroa ‘20 BSN, RN. Her 8-week summer experience as a Flynn Fellow* on a 14-bed medical oncology unit at Yale New Haven Health System’s Greenwich Hospital in Connecticut would lead her to a full-time position on the same unit following her May 2020 graduation from Villanova. After launching her nursing career there, she has become certified in chemotherapy and biotherapy, and is seeking palliative care nursing certification as well.  

Fred Flynn created in his wife’s memory the Susan D. Flynn Oncology Nursing Fellowship Program for rising senior undergraduate nursing students. Combining selected top oncology care centers with highly regarded schools of nursing, the program exposes students to a wide array of oncology treatment modalities, patient care settings and the extensive knowledge and skills of oncology nurses in those settings. Flynn shares, “Since 2015, a total of 25 Villanova nursing students have been selected for this program and of the 17 in the workforce so far, an astounding 13 (76%) are already working as oncology nurses.” There are more oncology nursing fellows in the pipeline this summer. As the founder explains, “There will be a record six Villanova nursing students, all of whom were competitively selected by the respective host hospitals from a rich talent pool of applicants. At Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, an unprecedented three of the five fellows they selected--from a national applicant pool of 98 students--were from Villanova.”

“I had the incredible opportunity to spend my senior summer as a Susan D. Flynn Oncology Nursing Fellow, where I was introduced to the scope of oncology nursing and the many advancing treatments, clinical trials, and opportunities for enhancing patient care, while simultaneously developing immense compassion for patients and their families who were navigating their cancer journeys,” notes Figueroa, adding, “One of my favorite aspects of the fellowship, aside from shadowing nurses on the medical oncology unit and the outpatient cancer infusion center, was closely observing the role of the palliative care team and oncology nurse navigators. While conducting my evidence-based practice presentation on the Implementation of Non-Pharmacological Cancer Pain Management, I learned so much about how earlier utilization of palliative care services contributes to improved patient outcomes, symptom management, and most importantly, a holistic improvement in patients’ well-being.”

This novice nurse has set the stage for excellence in patient care and advancement of nursing practice with her professionalism. “I have felt so well prepared both personally and professionally to be a bedside leader here at Greenwich Hospital,” she explains. As part of her 12-month Vizient Nurse Residency Program, she completed an evidence-based review and study on her unit on Early Implementation of Palliative Care Services and the Non-Pharmacological Management of Cancer Pain which she presented at the Yale New Haven Health Research Fair.

She is also a member of the hospital's Healing Environment Council which is one of the hospital's Magnet Nursing Excellence Committees. “I am using so many of the skills that Professor Susan Stabler Haas taught me during my senior seminar on Mindfulness for Nurses. I have shared many of the mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques and ideas to help nurses cope and become more resilient to not only prevent nursing burnout but also enhance our well-being. This is something I am very passionate about in my personal life and have found a way to thread it into my nursing practice for myself and my colleagues,” Figueroa says. She is aiming to become a certified oncology nurse in the fall.

* Thanks to the generosity of our donors, since 2020, the name of the program based at the College of Nursing has been updated to the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing Oncology Fellowship and is co-sponsored by Fred Flynn and Dee ’86 BSN and Nick Adams. Dee is a member of FCN's Board of Consultors.