Pediatric Oncology

by MusicalCoffee 8,871 Views | 17 Comments

This is arguably one of the most emotionally stressful areas of nursing, depending on your point of view. Of course I would choose this as my area of interest and future specialty. As the saying goes: It's a tough job...but someone's got to do it.

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    Pediatric Oncology

    We had to write a nursing specialty paper in my NR101 class based on what kind of nurse we want to be. You guessed it: I want to be a Pediatric Oncology Nurse. Iíve been thinking about this for quite some time now, and at one point I wanted to do it all. Why choose? I could learn about everything, as time consuming as it might be, and never have to pick just one area. That was before I found it. I canít explain how I know, but this is where I should be. Itís where I want to be.

    That being said, yes, I do know how difficult it will be. I know how hard it is to see children suffering, at times helpless to do anything but make them as comfortable as possible. It can be downright torturous because so many young lives are lost to that horrible disease, and to watch it happen day after day, it can take atoll on you mentally as well as physically. Iím well aware. I hold no illusions nor do I have a hero complex. Iím not setting out with the belief that I can save every girl and boy in my care, as much as I may want to. I will cry. I will feel like the world is unfair. I will feel angry that those so young and innocent have to suffer so much. I will feel powerless to make any kind of difference. I will feel discouraged.

    And then, I will make a child smile. I will ease a parentís fear. I will hold hands and provide support. I will show love and compassion. I will be there. As hard as it is, they deserve a good nurse to be there, and that is what I hope to do.

    I understand that it can be emotionally overwhelming. Iím not superwoman and I genuinely care about others in a way that can, and usually does, hurt. I know to take care of myself so that I can properly take care of others. A few classmates think Iím a glutton for punishment to work in an area that seldom has positive outcomes. I canít say anything other than itís my place, to help as best I can. I want more than anything to make a real difference in the world. To help others, in any way I can. Nothing fancy or crazy. If I can help a family in some way, big or small, Iíll be happy. Iím not Mother Theresa. Iím not perfect. I canít explain why I feel this strong need to help others, but itís been there since I was young. In fact, when I was in high school, I wanted to win the lottery and be rich just so I could give the money away to people who need it. My parents thought I was nuts, but I digress.

    Itís true, I can help others by being a nurse in general, but my heart is in Pediatric Oncology. If Iím being honest, Iím glad I finally figured it out. It helps better guide the direction I want my education to go and really, it just feels good to know what you want to do with your life. To find your purpose, so to speak. Eventually I would like to work at St. Jude Research Hospital. My elementary school used to do an annual walk-a-thon and jump-a-thon to raise money and I always loved that.

    It might not make a lot of sense, and most people might not understand it, but thatís okay. Iím not looking for reassurance or approval. I know where Iím supposed to be, and Iím going to do everything I can to get there.
    Last edit by Joe V on Nov 28, '12
    sckooshy1, ShaynaSmart, Perdita, and 6 others like this.
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    MusicalCoffee joined Nov '12 - from 'Chicago, IL, US'. Posts: 47 Likes: 103; Learn more about MusicalCoffee by visiting their allnursesPage


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    17 Comments so far...

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    You took the words right out of my mouth. good luck to you and maybe we will work together someday
    MusicalCoffee likes this.
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    As a nurse of 25 years.... I want to wish you the best. My first 5 years of nursing was peds oncology and PICU. I chose that, and it was a great learning experience. One thing that I really didn't hear you mention was that when you work peds, especially oncology or PICU, you not only take care of the very sick child....but you take care of the entire family. There is a lot of teaching and reassurance that you have to gain confidence with in order to care for these clients. You also have to prepare yourself to deal with the most difficult and inquisitive type parents that will absolutely get on your very last nerve. Understand, they are feeling out of control and have a very sick child. I can remember playing nintendo with kids while their infusions were hanging, or holding hands while they got a painful procedure, singing with the kids, and spending lots of time talking to parents about what is going on and being HONEST with them about it all. Good luck to you! I wouldn't trade those years of experience for anything, but I couldn't go back and do it again either!
    sckooshy1, Perdita, violetgirl, and 6 others like this.
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    Yes, so so many student nurses, often say "Pediatrics! Newborn nursery! NICU!" and other child centered areas of healthcare, as, who can resist a child? Our heart swell with caring love, to even picture a child, and a child in trouble, our love just doubles.

    but, like AMN74 points out above, you do not care for JUST that child.

    Each child is usually surrounded, 24/7, with parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles,
    all of whom are often distraught, stressed beyond our wildest imagination, lacking sleep, and facing their worst nightmare. Many of them feel overwhelmed, frightened, and angry.
    These families do not behave in the same way when standing beside the bedside of their beloved child that they might be losing, as you picture 'normal' families behaving. It doesn't take much to set off even the kindest of people, when their child is in pain.


    sometimes, their anger wells up, and they sometimes lash out at YOU. Yes, yes, your heart will break for them, yes yes, you will know when they do, it's not about you, it's the overwhelming anguish that they can not deal with,
    and they might not lash out at their incoming best friend,
    or the doctor,
    but, YOU are there, 24/7, and even if you are doing a most excellent job of providing caring, top notch care,
    there is sometimes an anger there, that busts out, and sadly, this is sometimes directed to the nurse.

    This can be a stress in your field, that you have a right to know could be there.
    MusicalCoffee likes this.
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    What perfect timing, I am also in Nursing School and I've been very heavily considering Pediatric Oncology.

    My friend that wants to work in Labor & Delivery or the NICU said I was "crazy" for it. I think she believes L&D/NICU is all roses and sunshine?

    Anyways, thanks for the motivational post!
    nguyency77 and MusicalCoffee like this.
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    Wow it's so nice to hear from someone that they want to do pedi oncology!! I decided while going to school to be a LPN that I wanted to continue on to be a RN and specialize in that. I want to take what I like to call the Patch Adams approach to caring for these children just to make them smile one more day. I am amazed by the strength one child has through out all of it. They are inspiring to me and I can't wait to work in that specialty!!
    MusicalCoffee likes this.
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    Quote from AMN74
    As a nurse of 25 years.... I want to wish you the best. My first 5 years of nursing was peds oncology and PICU. I chose that, and it was a great learning experience. One thing that I really didn't hear you mention was that when you work peds, especially oncology or PICU, you not only take care of the very sick child....but you take care of the entire family. There is a lot of teaching and reassurance that you have to gain confidence with in order to care for these clients. You also have to prepare yourself to deal with the most difficult and inquisitive type parents that will absolutely get on your very last nerve. Understand, they are feeling out of control and have a very sick child. I can remember playing nintendo with kids while their infusions were hanging, or holding hands while they got a painful procedure, singing with the kids, and spending lots of time talking to parents about what is going on and being HONEST with them about it all. Good luck to you! I wouldn't trade those years of experience for anything, but I couldn't go back and do it again either!

    Quote from AMN74
    "One thing that I really didn't hear you mention was that when you work peds, especially oncology or PICU, you not only take care of the very sick child....but you take care of the entire family."
    This is so totally true.
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    My first Peds job was Stem Cell Transplant, 7 years later my nephew was diagnosis with 2 brain tumors had 2 stem cell transplant and eventually died at the age of 20. I don't know why I went into stem cell transplant for such a short time, (less then a year then switched to Peds ER) but being the control freak I am, it did help me with dealing with this, and with helping my family.

    Yes, Peds Onc is hard, but it is worth it. Good luck with your venture.
  11. 0
    Thank You for all the comments, I appreciate the support and words of encouragement.

    I realized I didn't include the family huddles so often going on in the rooms or the tremendous amount of stress and terror the family feels at the thought of losing their baby, but I do understand that as well. They're feeling helpless and lost because they're the parent. The one who is supposed to make everything okay, and there's nothing they can do in this situation. It's completely out of their control. Lashing out at the nurses, as some of you said, is just their way of coping and wanting so desperately for their child to be receiving the very best care possible.I was once that person, screaming at the ones who were supposed to know what they were doing, because it was all I could do. I know there will be times I take it personally, because I'm human, and I'll second guess my competence a few times, especially when I'm starting out, because I'll want to do the best and be the best for their little one. I wont let it control me, though, and I will become more confident in my abilities as time passes. Stress is naturally a part of nursing, no matter what field, and I plan on handling it as best I can so it doesn't take over and compromise my ability to do my job. I can't see the future or possibly prepare for all of the many bumps and twists along the way. I can just do my best and take things in stride. That's all any of us can do, right?
  12. 0
    All through nursing school I planned on going into Pediatric Oncology, my 12 year old is a childhood cancer survivor...but I eventually came to the decision that it would be too hard on me emotionally to work in that field, not all children have the 'happy ending' of going into remission, like my daughter.

    I ended up going into Adult Oncology, which by default includes Hospice patients. I learned a lot, but after about 2 1/2 years I became emotionally/mentally exhausted from dealing with so many terminal cases, not to mention the frequent deaths of Hospice patients (I'd had three patients expire in one shift...more than once)... and caring for the families was often more difficult than caring for the patients. I now work on a General Surgery floor, and the switch has been a positive one for me. I wouldn't mind getting a job in an outpatient Cancer treatment center some day, but I don't think I'll ever work inpatient oncology again.


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