Mentoring the New Registrar – Guest Blog by Melanie Zaleski

Have you ever heard anyone say they want to be a “Cancer Registrar” when they grow up? Well I have not.  The usual response when someone asks what you do for a living is “I have never heard of that field before”.   As most of us in the field did not want to “grow up” to be a Cancer Registrar and stumbled into the position one way or another, it is difficult to promote a field that is not widely known or on any lists of college programs for students to think about.

For those of us in the field of course, we talk about it and try to recruit anyone that seems remotely interested.  However, the conversation usually ends there because moving to the next step is where we find the stumbling blocks. While there are educational avenues to obtain a degree in Cancer Registry they are mainly on line, self taught and with little to no mentoring.  A student is required to have 160 hours of onsite training but as registrars know there are not 160 hours in anyone’s schedule to give up to mentor, train or even look at a student. Not only is there the time issue but there is the cooperation of hospital administration to agree to let the student in the door, having space for a student to work and then finding a  schedule that works for the student and the mentor. Once all that is accomplished how do you squeeze everything a new registrar needs to know that is not in any book into 160 hours??

With changes in the standards every year and what seems like a million data fields that are collected, education is key to keeping a student from running toward the door and shaping them into a well rounded new registrar that can benefit a program from day one.  The quote “it takes a village to raise a child” can also apply to the training of a new registrar as it takes a community to raise a well rounded Cancer Registrar.

With cancer programs expanding all over the city and no one to recruit, we in the registrar community need to mentor fledgling registrars, promote the field and find ways to work together to raise the next generation of registrars. If you don’t have 160 hours do you have 25-30? If we work together to create a rotation of training, we could create the village needed…….