Behind EXCEL: Oncology Nursing Podcast

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In this series, we talk with the people who created some of this year’s most exciting EXCEL Award-winning work to find the story behind the project. For more stories behind this year’s EXCEL Awards, look for the August-September issue of Signature magazine.


Go here for a full list of this year’s EXCEL winners.


The Oncology Nursing Society won a bronze EXCEL in Digital Media: Podcast (Membership) for the Oncology Nursing Podcast. We asked Christopher Pirschel, staff writer at Oncology Nursing Society, to tell us a little bit more about this project. ONS won four EXCEL awards this year.


Sidebar: How did the podcast come together?


Pirschel: I regularly interview oncology nursing professionals for feature articles in our monthly news publication, the ONS Voice. The conversations offer insightful and groundbreaking information and often leave me feeling inspired and hopeful about the future of care for patients with cancer. Unfortunately, as with all news publications, there’s only so much space in an article to include comments by the interviewee. Feeling like we were missing an opportunity to share the entirety of our interviewees’ expertise, personality, and experiences, my supervisor, Elisa Becze, and I decided to explore creating a podcast.


Sidebar: What makes these stories special?


Pirschel: As the face of patient-centered cancer care, oncology nurses are a lifeline for their patients. They translate complex medical information, report on patient symptoms, and carry out integral treatments that save lives. More than that, many oncology nurses are researchers, patient advocates, and leaders in their institution. As the crucial connection between patient and the interprofessional medical staff, oncology nurses play a key role in successful cancer care. We want to share their stories.


Sidebar: What notable hurdles did you overcome to create this?


Pirschel: Creating a podcast was as simple and as difficult as anyone would imagine. What we’ve found is that it’s a learning process. If you go back and listen to some of the most popular podcasts today, the first few episodes of their shows are often completely different than what they’re producing now. You have to find the right rhythm, the right balance, and the best way to capture a story that resonates with your audience. Since we’re one of the only podcasts featuring oncology nurses, we didn’t have much of a precedent. We just keep growing and learning and looking for the best balance for our audience.


Sidebar: What was your greatest achievement in producing this podcast?


Pirschel: Seeing that first episode alert show up on our phones was a pretty important moment. There was a lot of preparation, discussion, and refinement that went into developing this podcast before we ever launched our first episode. Seeing the alert pop up, artwork and all, felt like it was finally official. We were off and running at that point.


Sidebar: What special techniques or technologies did you use to create this?


Pirschel: We felt simplicity was key to making sure our podcast remained consistent. We bought a digital recorder and microphones, and I researched the best way to record audio from phone and Skype calls. Since our guests are all across the country — and many of them work hectic, 12-hour shifts — we wanted to be as flexible as possible and ensure we could record with anyone no matter their location. We’ve had great success with our interviews both in-house and over the phone. From there, I use Adobe Audition to edit our episodes, tweak the audio, and add a level of production value to the podcast.


Sidebar: What lessons did you learn from this process?


Pirschel: We learned that creating a podcast is hard work. It’s never as simple as it seems from the outside. Once I was working in the minutia of the episodes, looking to produce the best possible content for our listeners, I discovered that the more effort and preparation you put into the episode, the better the outcome. I’ve tried to use that moving forward, recognizing past mistakes and learning from them. We’re excited to see where we are this time next year.