Oncology Nursing: A Wider World of Caring

It has been three years since I joined the wonderful group of infusion nurses at New England Cancer Specialists. Some days it feels like I have been there for 30 years, while other days I still feel brand new. Oncology and healthcare are continuously advancing, and learning is certainly on a continuum. I became oncology certified in the fall to advance my practice and provide my patients with the best care. Caring for cancer patients has been a real honor and I am in constant awe of the strength and hope they bring with them when they come to the infusion room for their chemotherapy treatment. 

In 2020 I was a new graduate in a pandemic, full of uncertainty and eagerness. NECS welcomed me with open arms and a mask at the door. When I became a nurse, I didn’t know my role had so many forms. I’ve become the hand holder, the lifesaver, the advocate, the educator, the familiar face, and most importantly, the caregiver. I am often the most social interaction a patient has all week! And I love it.   

I love seeing their faces and getting to know the incredible lives they have lived. I am the one that probably spends the most time with the patient, out of the entire healthcare team. I’ve built wonderful, trusting, caring bonds with the patients I’ve encountered, and to see them do well is such a happy and joyous time. I am amazed at the strength and hope many patients have even when they’ve received bad news, and I am grateful that I can be there for them as they continue their journey. I am grateful for all the patients I have been able to get to know, those who we’ve unfortunately lost, and their family members who have told us how much we touched their lives. To know that we have such a significant impact on such a short percentage of their life is very humbling, and I can only hope they have positive memories of my care for them, even when they’ve sailed through rough waters.  

These aren’t things that are in my job description; these are moments from the true bonds I’ve made: hugging my crying patient who just got bad news, handing out popsicles to patients in July when it was 100 degrees, giving gifts for completing chemotherapy treatment, writing sympathy cards or well wishes cards or “congratulations on your hard work, you’re cancer free!” cards. I always tell my patients “I love seeing you, but I don’t want to see you here anymore.”  

From a new nurse to studying for my master’s in nursing education, my time as a nurse caring for cancer patients and their families has altered my way of thinking, acting, and living in a way that has both strengthened me and filled my heart. I’ve been able to handle unpredictable moments and challenges I never would have imagined I would be in the position to handle. I’ve grown to possess fortitude to navigate rough waters with a face that says, “don’t worry, everything is going to be alright.” All these moments, they are rewarding challenges. Thank you to my patients who have allowed me to go through intimate moments with you, and who have certainly kept me well fed for the past three years with gracious gifts of delicious goodies. 

I encourage other nurses to advance your personal and professional lives, to act as leaders not only at work, but in the community, and to know you have made a real difference even on the days when you feel like you have failed. I want to thank all the nurses out there, my coworkers at NECS who have been a solid team to lean against, cry with, laugh with, and work besides, and my sister who I have the utmost respect for both as a nurse and a tremendously caring human being. We have made differences in countless lives and have answered the call even in times of uncertainty. I strive to do as you do and lead the way you lead. The physically and emotionally exhausting moments of this profession are far outweighed by the pivotal role we play. We are healers. We are comforters. We are there for you. We are nurses. 

Original article from Portland Press Herald


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