I would not describe myself as a senior, (unless it includes a discount); however, I would describe myself as a seasoned Certified Tumor Registrar (CTR) who has been around the block more than I care to admit.
Since entering the cancer registry field in the early 1990s, I have aspired to make this a career and not just a job. Most of us have had some sort of encounter that initially brought us to the cancer registry. Few of us walked out of high school or college and said, "I want to be a CTR," as most do when selecting an occupation such as a nurse, lawyer, or doctor. We may not have known we had a calling, but we would soon find out the passion this field brings to us.
My calling came from a clerical background in medical records, then abstracting the cases for billing purposes. I became interested in the cancer registry when an opening for a follow-up technician became available. Simply put, it was love at first sight.
Being a cancer registrar is not just about collecting, reporting and analyzing data, or ensuring accreditation with the Commission on Cancer, supporting software, consulting, or any number of options a CTR has in this field. It is about upholding the ethical standards that entrust a CTR with private data about people we know, and people we don't know. We are the gatekeeper of personal and critical data that represents a human being who has had their life touched by cancer. We share the same expectations of professionalism as a doctor, nurse or lawyer. We have a professional code of ethics that was established in 1986 by the National Cancer Registrars Association (NCRA) with several revisions through 2008.
NCRA's Professional Practice Code of Ethics defines the principles of professional conduct. It outlines high standards of conduct, the integrity we bring to the profession, the fairness in all our actions and decisions and, most importantly, establishes and sustains an irreproachable, professional reputation. All it takes is one mistake, one error to ruin your reputation. People tend to remember the mistakes much longer than the positive actions.
CTRs promise not only to preserve the integrity of the data we collect, but to support and uphold professional standards by treating others with dignity and respect. We must make every attempt to assist others when working toward the mutual goal of collecting and reporting accurate data. This means being helpful to other facilities and responsive to their data requests.
The code of ethics includes such areas as providing loyal service and carrying out the complete responsibilities of your position. These responsibilities include notifying your employer if the facility is in danger of errors of commission and omission. As much as it may pain you, if something is significantly wrong, you are doing more damage by not reporting the issue.
Other ethical guidelines include not accepting anything of value from a third-party provider of services or product to the health institution. Unless part of a recruitment service, the cancer registrar is to refuse to accept finder and referral fees. Conflict of interest in providing a full disclosure of services and products is also part of the professionalism of the cancer registrar.
The bottom line is that the future of the cancer registry profession relies on integrity, honesty, and trust, along with common sense that we are professionals. If you expect to be treated like a professional, one must walk and talk like a professional, always putting the profession at the forefront.
The National Cancer Registrars Association has an ethics committee. I encourage all CTRs to review the Code of Ethics located on the NCRA website at www.ncra-sa.org/files/public/codeofethics08.pdf for some valuable information.
Lisa Landvogt, BA, CTR, has been a Certified Tumor Registrar since 1995. She is also a graduate of Governors State University. Her past experience includes manager of oncology services for Ingalls Hospital and administrator of accreditation and standards for the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer. She recently accepted the position as vice president of Client Services with Sonreg Solutions Inc. a cancer registry and cancer program consulting and outsourcing company. She is currently the president-elect for the Cancer Registrars of Illinois and chairs the cancer registrars subcommittee of the American Cancer Society, Illinois Division Inc.