New Mexico Educator Barbara J. Offner Seeks to Enhance a Sense of Community Among Off-Campus Students

Although she currently does not see patients, Barbara J. Offner DNP ’20, RN, CRNI has one of the most interesting jobs in nursing. As an Oncology Nurse Educator in ImmunoOncology for AstraZeneca--a commercial, non-sales position, “Opportunities to make a difference are many.”

Offner supports educational needs of specific immunotherapy drugs used in cancer treatment. “My role is usually involved in the general management of the immunotherapy patient and the identification and management of the immune related adverse events,” she explains. “I also provide education on immune and molecular biomarker testing that is seen in cancer diagnosis. I provide specific education to oncology health care providers including nurses, advance practice personnel, and physicians, as well as other non-professional staff. I am able to function in a consultant capacity to organizations that are developing or updating care maps or protocols specific to my area of specialty. I am also to speak at professional organization meetings including the Oncology Nurses Society, Infusion Nurses Society, American Association Nurse Practitioners, and Advanced Practitioner Society for Hematology and Oncology. The role allows me opportunity to interact with nurse professionals across the United States.”

Barbara Offner

"My role is usually involved in the general management of the immunotherapy patient and the identification and management of the immune related adverse events" - Barbara Offner

To paraphrase Talking Heads, “You may ask yourself, well how did she get here?”

“I initially aspired to become a physician,” Offner recalls. “My thought was to complete my bachelor's degree in nursing, then apply to medical school. Early in my nursing education, my first husband was killed in a car accident. While I continued with the plan for medical school, this changed with the reality of trying to juggle medical school as a single parent. Additionally, I realized that I loved being a nurse. Medical school was sidelined. I focused on nursing. There are no regrets.”

When she decided to pursue a DNP, Offner searched for programs that offered the education focus she was interested in pursuing and came upon Regis. “I reviewed the mission,” she wrote, “and like what I read. I believe strongly that the mission and/or philosophy of an organization resonates with the graduates. I reviewed the program itself and was impressed with the information provided. I also addressed the program with the recruiter and she patiently answered many questions. The decision was made after a methodical approach to information gathering brought me to the realization that I had found a program that would meet my needs.”

Attending from her home in Artesia, New Mexico informed Offner’s perspective of the graduate ambassador role. “The online format can allow for a separationist attitude,” she notes. However, a critical piece of our overall educational experience is the benefit of peer interactions. I value the insights of my class/program peers and take time to read and reflect on comments that are made. I also value the opportunity to provide my personal insight into the works submitted by peers and the ability to ask questions in an easy format.

I view this program as a mentor requisite role. The goal of any program is to maintain enrollment and maximize graduation rate. More importantly, the goal is to provide quality graduates to a workforce that can function as change agents within the field of specialty. The ability to function in a mentor position allows for unique opportunities to guide program entrants, especially those that are virtual naïve. What would you like to see the program focus on? This needs to be based on concerns and issues that have been previously identified. The goal of the program should be to improve a specific process. I do not see the Ambassador Program as a social experience, I see it as collegial where the experience of the new student community is enhanced.”