Dear Nurse Beth,
I have been an RN for a little over a year. I worked on a med/surg oncology unit and I loved working with oncology patients, but I hated the hospital setting because it was too chaotic and I didn't feel like I had enough time to really spend time with and help my patients. I just started a job in home health, and maybe it will feel different when I get out of training, but right now it seems like all the home health nurse does is take vitals, change dressings, and fill out paperwork. I don't feel like I'm truly helping someone by doing those things.
I want a job where I really feel like I'm helping people and making a difference, which is why I loved working with oncology patients. The only problem is, I live in more of a rural area and there are not many opportunities for oncology nursing here unless you work in a hospital, which I discovered I don't like. I went to an OCN class in a big city and that city had tons of opportunities for oncology nurses in an outpatient setting, but the opportunities are scarce here.
I'm the type of person that thrives off of one on one care, making personal connections with patients, and having a deep sense that I'm helping them or making a difference. I definitely feel called to be a nurse so I can help and be a blessing to people, and I want to have a spiritual connection with what I'm doing. I thought about working in hospice, but I'm not sure if I can handle seeing people die all the time and the emotional stress it will put me through.
Do you have any career advice for me? What area of nursing would you recommend for me if I want to make a real difference in my patients' lives?
Dear Wants to Make a Difference,
I believe nurses in all specialities make a difference. Did you brighten someone’s day? Encourage a patient or family member? Calm them with your presence? Educate them on their condition? The times I have been a patient, nurses have made a huge difference and I’ll bet they didn’t even know it. I still remember the kind labor nurse when I was birthing my first child as a terrified young mother.
One option that comes to mind with your background and compassion is Palliative Care nursing. It's in the hospital setting, but it's not like working on a nursing unit. You would see patients throughout the hospital and coordinate services. There's a lot of communication with families and opportunity for connection.
Try giving Home Health a little more time before you decide that you are not making a difference. Home Health can be very gratifying as you establish a relationship with your patients and get to know them in their own setting. It's also one to one care, which you are drawn to.
You can be a blessing in any setting, even when you don't realize it. Many of us often have no idea of the impact we have on others. It's not the tasks that you do that
define who you are, it's your presence. It's not the acuity of the patient, it's the universal need to be understood that nurses can meet in any situation.