Nurses Guide to Integrative Oncology

CancerChoices is a resource for integrative oncology professionals and healthcare professionals who want a balanced assessment of complementary therapies and more. This guide is a portal for information and resources for oncology nurses.

Nurses taking care of themselves

“The most important relationship is the one we have with ourselves. If one is to work from a caring, healing paradigm, one must live it out every day. This requires a commitment to self care at that deep level of personal practice and discipline.”

Jean Watson, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, FAAN, LL (AAN)
from In Right Relation: Taking Time for Soul Care Webinar

Personal story

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

My first head nurse used to say “I work in oncology because there’s more to talk about than just the weather.” I was 23 years old then, and it wasn’t long before I learned the deeper truth to her words as I cared for people grappling with the intense physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual gauntlet that cancer throws before them. 

We give them treatments that make them sick, even take them to the brink of death, with the goal of saving their lives. We are the professionals who most closely witness and attend to the suffering that is part of so many people’s cancer experiences. We celebrate, laugh, and cry with them. We grieve with them, for them, and for ourselves. We comfort, care for, and love them. 

Caring for people with cancer offers us the opportunity to live in the intensity of life, both comfortable and uncomfortable. 

Without caring for ourselves, however, we risk a hardening of the heart. We push our feelings down deep, not knowing that what we send to the basement of our mind will start lifting weights and eventually resurface.

If you want your work to support you, not only financially, but in your whole being, you might think about taking a look at the condition of your self-compassion. If it needs shoring up or even life support, consider if you’d like to do the sometimes messy and hard and oftentimes beautiful work of healing. I promise you that honoring your inner healing will make you a better companion to your patients along their healing journey. Self care goes beyond something you do for yourself personally. Modeling self care will be a service to your colleagues and your patients. We’re not talking about perfection, either. You’re human—a fellow wounded healer. Everybody needs to care for themselves—even nurses.

You can choose from many programs for self-care. You can begin by reviewing CancerChoices’ 7 Healing Practices as though you’re a patient, not a care practitioner. You’ll find guidance on how to choose the practices that are right for you as well as resources for learning more and going deeper with a particular practice. We also give information on how to make new healthy habits stick.

Commentary on self care

Feeling depressed or burned out? Get moving!

From Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS: Moving more turns out to be good medicine for depression and other mental-health challenges that health care professionals experience. Physical activity at home guided by a mobile app reduced depressive symptoms and signs of burnout. Those who stayed with the program for 12 weeks also took less sick leave and were far less cynical about and emotionally exhausted from their work.1Boucher VG, Haight BL et al. Effects of 12 weeks of at-home, application-based exercise on health care workers’ depressive symptoms, burnout, and absenteeism: a randomized clinical trial. JAMA Psychiatry. 2023 Aug 9:e232706. The main take-away is that moving more is key to self-care and reducing the chances of getting burned out. 

Perhaps exercising outside the home with a group or buddy works better for you. Finding a way to replace some of your sedentary time with regular “doses” of physical activity is good medicine not only for your body, but for your mind and spirit. See Moving More › for more information and resources.

Helpful links on your own self care

Cancer-focused organizations, including professional ones such as the Oncology Nursing Society, provide resources and support for you to take care of yourself. 

Healing Circles Global

Healing Circles for Health Care Professionals ›

Connect with yourself and others in a safe space to find community, belonging, and processing of shared experiences

American Holistic Nurses Association

Self-Care and Resilience Resources ›

Valluri J, Gorton KL. NURSE: five micropractices to reduce stress. Journal of Radiology Nursing. 2022 Dec;41(4):352-356.

Self-Healing through Reflection: a Workbook for Nurses ›
by Nancy Jo Bush, RN, MN, MA, AOCN, and Deborah A. Boyle, RN, MSN, AOCNS, FAAN


Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
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Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, MSN, RN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant


Susan Yaguda, MSN, RN

Manager at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute and CancerChoices Clinical Consultant
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Susan Yaguda, MSN, RN, has been a nurse for nearly 40 years, working in a variety of healthcare settings. She currently works in Charlotte, North Carolina, at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute as the manager for Integrative Oncology and Cancer Survivorship. She works with a multidisciplinary team to deliver holistic, evidence-based support and education for patients and care partners at any point along the trajectory of cancer care. She completed the Integrative Oncology Scholars Program through the University of Michigan in 2020, is certified as an Integrative Health Coach through Duke Integrative Medicine and has a post-graduate certificate in Nursing Education from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. Susan also was awarded the Planetree International Scholar’s Award in 2018 and was recognized by the Daisy Foundation for Nurse Leadership in 2021. Susan has a particular interest in empowering patients and care partners with knowledge to help drive informed decision making and educating nurses on the benefits of integrative care for patients and self-care. She has presented nationally and internationally on integrative oncology and nursing education.

She and her husband, Mark, have two adult children and a very spoiled foxhound. She enjoys hiking, knitting, cooking, and pickleball.

“As a frequent consumer of Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, and now CancerChoices, for both professional education and patient support, it is an honor to have the opportunity to engage with the dedicated team at CancerChoices to serve those impacted by this disease.”  


Susan Yaguda, MSN, RN Manager at Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute and CancerChoices Clinical Consultant

Miki Scheidel

Co-Founder and Creative Director
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Miki Scheidel is Co-founder and creative director of CancerChoices. She led the effort to transform Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies, the prior version of CancerChoices, to its current form. Miki and her family were deeply affected by her father’s transformative experience with integrative approaches to metastatic kidney cancer. That experience inspires her work as president of the Scheidel Foundation and as volunteer staff at CancerChoices. She previously worked with the US Agency for International Development and Family Health International among other roles. She received her graduate degree in international development from Georgetown University, a graduate certificate in nonprofit management from George Mason University, and a Bachelor of Arts from Gettysburg College.

Miki Scheidel Co-Founder and Creative Director

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher
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Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher and writer for CancerChoices and also served as the first program manager. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher

Melissa Oprish

Communication and Outreach Lead
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Melissa Oprish brings several years of experience working in marketing, content creation, and writing with a focus on wellness, parenting, and food. Melissa has been closely touched by cancer through her husband’s diagnosis and believes deeply in the power of not just physical healing, but spiritual and emotional healing as well. Melissa’s educational background is in sociology and marketing with a recent certification in holistic nutrition.

Melissa Oprish Communication and Outreach Lead

Last update: June 7, 2024

CancerChoices provides information about integrative in cancer care, a patient-centered approach combining the best of conventional care, self care and evidence-informed complementary care in an integrated plan cancer care. We review complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture therapies and self-care lifestyle actions and behaviors that may impact cancer outcomes; examples include eating health-promoting foods, limiting alcohol, increasing physical activity, and managing stress practices to help patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy and complementary therapies and practices for each person.

Our staff have no financial conflicts of interest to declare. We receive no funds from any manufacturers or retailers gaining financial profit by promoting or discouraging therapies mentioned on this site.

This guide was funded by Jonas Philanthropies, Inc.

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