Strengthening Nursing Sustainability With Amy Rettig, DNP, RN, APRN-BC

At the recent 48th Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Congress, Amy Rettig, DNP, RN, APRN-BC, sat down with Oncology Data Advisor® to discuss her presentation focused on intentional facilitated conversations to promote nursing sustainability.  

Oncology Data Advisor: Welcome to Oncology Data Advisor. Today, I’m here at ONS Congress, and I’m joined by Amy Rettig. Thank you so much for joining me.

Amy Rettig, DNP, RN, APRN-BC: Thank you. I’m very happy to be here, Keira.

Oncology Data Advisor: Would you like to introduce yourself and share what your work focuses on?

Dr. Rettig. Sure, my name is Amy Rettig, and I work as a Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurse at the James Cancer Hospital at The Ohio State University. My work focuses on staff and faculty well-being, and I work with patients with cancer. I have been doing this for probably… I have to calculate it because it seems like this is something that I have been involved in or focused on my entire career at the James, which has been 15 years. But I’ve been doing it very specifically with a titled role for about seven years.

Oncology Data Advisor: That’s great. So, you presented this morning on Current Challenges in Nursing Sustainability. Would you like to give a quick overview of what your presentation was about?

Dr. Rettig: Yes, thank you. This was the Mara Mogensen Flaherty Lectureship this year. They decided to do something very different and brought together a panel of people that come from different perspectives as a way to start the dialogue about what we’re talking about in nursing sustainability.

My particular piece focused on a specific action that anyone can do. Particularly at the Oncology Nursing Society, they’ve got a training to become a facilitator for intentional facilitated conversations. What that means is that when there is a hard topic, when there is something that needs and deserves a deeper dialogue, when you have an intentional facilitated conversation, you’re setting up the time and space to be very intentional about your words.

As a participant, you’re also paying attention to what people are saying—really listening in a way that allows the words to come in, the pause to happen, so that you get to reflect as well and you’re not fixing anything. You’re not solving anything for anybody, and you’re not telling anybody they’re right or wrong. You are listening with empathy. You’re listening to understand deeply what your colleague or coworker or peer is actually saying.

This is an evidence-based practice. It has been around since time immemorial, if you think about the circle and the way in which indigenous populations would communicate. The art of hosting—which is a business management style of hosting intentional facilitated conversations, the circle way—has been in practice for millennia. Now we’re just kind of using it a little bit differently, framing it a little bit differently to allow health care givers a space where that’s safe and doesn’t feel like a mental health support group. It doesn’t feel like a process group; it just feels like something natural.

Oncology Data Advisor: Great. How do you recommend presenting this to institutions?

Dr. Rettig: I would say that I think there are probably a couple of ways to do that, because it’s actually happening at the water cooler on a lower scale. It’s not necessarily with so much intention and maybe not listening with so much attention but offering people the openness and opportunity to have conversation creates a difference. It takes somebody just starting it. This has been something that I’ve done since 2017 because of what our patient experience staff were experiencing when working in the emergency department waiting rooms, which is a tough place to be. They just needed an opportunity to be able to talk about that in a way that allowed them not to be complaining, not to be demoralized, and not to be feeling lost. What happens in these intentional conversations is people discover their own resilience; they discover that they’re not alone.

How to introduce this into an organization—I’m coming back to that because I just completely danced around it, because I don’t know that I know the answer to that. My work is grassroots. I started the grassroots and I just build and ripple out from there. Have a lot of people adopted it? No. When people have the opportunity to engage in it, they come. It’s one of those kinds of movements. There are colleges that are doing crucial conversations or conversations that matter that I think are interesting as well. That was happening in 2019/20, so keeping the momentum going is probably more key even than introducing it. The piece about the intentional facilitated conversation is that it’s not necessarily natural because you feel like you’re being a bit more intentional.

I can’t go crazy, right? I can’t just be spouting off, though it does happen, but the group redirects. It’s like, “Well, what about…” and all of a sudden, the solutions are coming from everybody, and they’re not being lectured at. I’m not “Amy-splaining” you, right? It’s actually more of an “aha” moment within each one of us.

Oncology Data Advisor: For nurses who weren’t attending your talk this morning, are there any take-home messages about this that they can bring back to their institutions?

Dr. Rettig: If they are members of the Oncology Nursing Society, there is training available through ONS. They can get on the learning hub of ONS and take the course, and they get professional development credit for that. And then there are guide sheets to help them take that back and get things started in their organization or their local chapters, in their institutions, even in their families. You could do this with your family and have a hard conversation about smoking or something that might be different than the big intervention.

Oncology Data Advisor: Exactly, right. That’s great. Well, thank you so much for talking about all this today. It was really interesting to learn about.

Dr. Rettig: Thank you, Keira, very much.

About Dr. Rettig

Amy Rettig, DNP, RN, APRN-BC, is a Mental Health Advanced Practice Registered Nurse at the James Cancer Hospital of The Ohio State University. Her extensive work seeks to support the mental well-being of oncology nurses and other staff members involved in the care of patients with cancer.

For More Information

Rettig A, Ghazal L, Carroll S & Boyle D (2023). Current challenges: nursing sustainability. Presented at: 48th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress. Available at:

Oncology Nursing Society (2023). Professional development. Available at:

Transcript edited for clarity. Any views expressed above are the speaker’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Oncology Data Advisor. 

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