Championing Policy Advocacy in Cancer: The Patient and Nurse Perspectives With Carley VonHeeder and Gilanie De Castro, MSN, RN, OCN®, NE-BC, CNML

At the 49th Annual Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Congress in Washington, DC, Carley VonHeeder and Gilanie De Castro, MSN, RN, OCN®, NE-BC, CNML, presented a session entitled “Powerful Outcomes from Nurse and Patient Policy Advocacy.” In this interview, they share additional insights from their presentation, including:

  • Their journeys toward becoming involved in advocacy work
  • Ms. VonHeeder’s work in advocating for fertility policy legislation
  • Ms. De Castro’s involvement in ONS Capitol Hill Days and the ONS California Advocacy Summit
  • The American Nurses Association (ANA) Code of Ethics for Nurses and how advocacy work fits in
  • Local and national ONS chapter opportunities
  • Where nurses should begin if they are interested in becoming involved in policy advocacy
  • How they fuel their motivation for advocacy work and how other nurses can find that spark themselves
  • And more!

About the Speakers

Carley VonHeeder is an oncology patient advocate who was diagnosed with stage 2 classical Hodgkin lymphoma on May 5, 2022. After facing challenges with high out-of-pocket expenses for fertility preservation, which she began prior to starting chemotherapy, she became involved in policy advocacy. She and her team were instrumental in passing the Montana Senate Bill 516 to provide for the Preserving Fertility Act, which passed on June 29, 2023. 

Gilanie De Castro, MSN, RN, OCN®, NE-BC, CNML, is an Interim Senior Regional Nursing Director at City of Hope National Cancer Center in Pasadena, California. She has been an oncology nurse for over 20 years and has served in several clinical leadership roles, including as the 2024 President-Elect of the Greater Los Angeles ONS Chapter (GLAONS). Ms. De Castro also serves as the 2023-2025 Legislative Director for the American Nurses Association-California. Her mission is to build civic engagement for nurses and improve health outcomes by extending the reach of nursing influence into public and health policy spheres.

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