So what is it like being an oncology nurse?

  1. Hi, this is the kind of nurse i think i want to be.

    I would like to know some things about the job.


    How are the hours usually?

    How much free time do you have for your family during the week?

    How is the pay? (curious :P)

    DO any of you have a masters degree? ANd if so, are their any benifits w/ that?


    What are the ups and downs of the job?



    hehe i know that sounds like alot of questions, but im so curious so hear it straight from nurses and not from some book.


    Looking forward to hearing from someone!!! ^__^!


    please please please lol:chuckle
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  2. 20 Comments

  3. by   chemo9103
    i have been i oncolegy for 4 years, and each year it gets harder. it can be very rewarding, you not only take care of the patient but the family as well. the only bad thing is that the patients keep getting younger and younger
  4. by   Purple Hugs
    Chibi, I too want to head for oncology. took my hubby a while to understand my choice / decision, but he supports me now. I have lost family to cancer so fully understand the 'family / friend' side of things.

    Good luck with your studies and career choices.

    Chemo9103 - Keep up the great work, I'm sure the families and patients appreciate your care.

    It is sad to hear that patients are getting younger, but with so many more people that you know getting cancer it is not suprising to hear you say this. :stone
  5. by   Ted
    I worked on a heme/onc/bmt floor for 7+ years. This position was my first position in my career as a nurse. Although I don't work there full-time (work in an ICU/CCU for a small, rural hospital), I still work on this particular unit on a per diem basis. I do this because I love working oncology (but don't want to work in a big teaching hospital now).

    Like another poster mentioned on this thread, not only are you supporting the oncology patient, you're supporting the family as well. Many of the family members are parents caring for their teenager or spouses or siblings. And the family members provided muchly needed support (most of the time) for the patient. But many times the family members would suffer from fatigue as well as lots of anger.

    Then there is the patient! Boy, are many of the heme-onc patients sick! They're pancytopenic (sp?), may be septic, may have horrible mouth/throat sores, nauseous and vomiting (if their antiemetic regime is failing them), have all sorts of electrolyte imbalances, and so on and so on. . .

    What's the reward?? Many of what I described above are expected side-effects of the threatment given them. Usually, there's a "light at the end of the tunnel". Most often, they heal, feel better and go home. Hopefully!! A large percentage of the reward for me is being part of the healing process; being supportive both emotionally, spiritually and medically in all aspects of the process.

    But boy are they sick. They need LOADS of tender loving care, as do their families. And sometimes the patient does not go home. Many times they don't. And a whole different type of support needs to be provided.

    Lots of young people.

    Lots of death.

    You need to take care of yourself. Make sure you have your support systems are in place, especially in a setting like this.

    But I find working for this population of people very rewarding and very challanging. And, at this time in my nursing career, enjoy it in small measured doses.

    Regards to you as you explore your career choices!!

    Ted

    P. S. For Chemo9103 -

    Quote from Chemo9103
    I have been in oncolegy for 4 years, and each year it gets harder. it can be very rewarding, you not only take care of the patient but the family as well. the only bad thing is that the patients keep getting younger and younger
    About 3 to 4 years into my stay on the heme-onc/bmt unit, I found myself experiencing similar feelings. The job was getting harder and harder. Too many people not surviving (young and old).

    I learned a simple lesson in coping with the stress of oncology nursing from a seasoned nurse who used to work in hospice. Although not word for word, it kind of goes like this:

    Give them the best 8 hours of your time while you're at work. Go home and forget.

    I took that simple and precious piece of advice to heart. To this day, I do not remember the names of the person I've cared for, even a few days after caring for them. I purposely forget. Don't need to remember, really. But while I'm at work, I give them the best 8 hours (well, 12 hours, actually) of my time, expetise and support. Really does help me from burn-out. Most of the time, anyway.

    {{{HUGS}}} to you, Chemo9103, and peace!

    Ted
    Last edit by Ted on May 7, '04
  6. by   Energizer Bunny
    The more and more I read of different areas of nursing, the more conflicted I am as far as what I want to do. I have also considered Oncology mostly because of family members and friends suffering with Cancer. Thanks for this thread and more insight would be great!
  7. by   Chibi Baka
    I know this job is very challenging. I still feel some sort of pull to get into the field though. It must be so difficult to deal with patients and their families though.
    Ive never seen someone w/ a severe case of cancer

    how bad can it get?
  8. by   bigjay
    I've worked in Oncology and palliative care for six years now. I think it takes a certain type of person to do it. You need to be able to be very supportive of patients and family but also maintain a bit of internal distance to avoid burnout. Having a good appreciation of death as part of the cycle of life is a definate plus. I work on an in-patient oncology/ g-med floor and we generally see only the sickest of the onc pts. The ones sick enough to be admitted are generally palliative or heading down that road.

    Working in an out-patient clinic would be a different experience since more of your patients would recover or go into remission. Might be a bit happier place. Not that I find my job is all doom and gloom by any means. It's incredibly rewarding as you are helping the patient and their family through an immensely difficult time. Every day I go home knowing I've helped and feeling better because of it.

    I love working in oncology because I feel it requires me to use all of my skills as a nurse. You may need to use a lot of assessment and more acute care skills with pts who are having a medical complication from their disease as well as needing to utilize your communications skills for support of patient and family. You may have complex dressings from tumors or operative wounds. On my floor, you can be dealing with pretty much anything from day to day.
  9. by   bigjay
    Quote from Chibi Baka
    I know this job is very challenging. I still feel some sort of pull to get into the field though. It must be so difficult to deal with patients and their families though.
    Ive never seen someone w/ a severe case of cancer

    how bad can it get?
    How bad can it get... pretty bad. You see some horrible things happen to good people. You see people at their worst and at their best. It's challenging, heart breaking and peaceful all at the same time sometimes. But to me, it's always challenging and rewarding which keeps me coming back.
  10. by   Energizer Bunny
    I'm betting the kids are the hardest???
  11. by   Purple Hugs
    I just wanted to say thanks again everyone for replying, It's great to get a bit of insider knowledge (from a nursing aspect).

    I should think the hardest part of chldren and young adults is that you can't say they've had their lives.

    Without sounding strange, can I ask, do you agree with the treatment of the patients. My sister is a verterinary nurse, and a bit more 'hard nosed' than me, she knows I would like to go into oncology, and has obviously the same 'experiences' personally as a family member as me. She said the hardest thing for her in oncology would be not agreeing with the decisions being taken.

    I don't personally believe this will be a problem for me, I'm a little more passive. I just wondered how you guys felt about it? I realise hospices etc are more about quality of life and pain management.
  12. by   PeninsulaRN
    Quote from Purple Hugs
    Without sounding strange, can I ask, do you agree with the treatment of the patients.
    I'm sorry, I guess I don't quite understand your question. Do you mean agree with the prescribed therapy for the patients (i.e. chemotherapy, radiation, etc.), or agree when the patient becomes palliative and is only receiving care and comfort measures?
  13. by   Purple Hugs
    Generally extending life.

    My sister feels my uncles life was extended, when it in the families eyes it shouldn't have been. I guess she must feel this often happens.

    Me, I think that it depends on the person, and the 'fight' they have in them. Not everyone would cope well with a long battle of chemo etc, yet some would never want to just sit back and wait.
  14. by   PeninsulaRN
    Quote from Purple Hugs
    Generally extending life.

    My sister feels my uncles life was extended, when it in the families eyes it shouldn't have been. I guess she must feel this often happens.

    Me, I think that it depends on the person, and the 'fight' they have in them. Not everyone would cope well with a long battle of chemo etc, yet some would never want to just sit back and wait.
    Ahh, thank you for clarifying.

    In my experience, most oncologists are very clear with the patient and their families about prognosis, life expectancy, and if the treatment is curative or palliative. It is really up to the patient and their family what their treatment plan will be.

    And so, if the patient wants to fight against all odds, let them fight.

    And if a patient wants to give up and refuse treatment, although I might think their odds are good, that's up to them, too. Sometimes it comes down to a quality of life issue. And sometimes people are tired of fighting.

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