Calling all oncology nurses. I've always had an interest in working in oncology. I am very happy with my area now (PACU), but was thinking about trying oncology some day. I've heard it can be emotionally straining. I was wondering....could you tell me what it's really like? Please be candid. Thanks.
Jan 6, '07
i work in oncology/medical mix at a veterans hospital so i don't know how different it is here than other places... this was my first job so i dont have another area to compare it to either. it has made me very paranoid about getting cancer but i think that happens with most people with whatever area they are working in. a lot of the guys are A/O/A which is nice. the patients are usually here for longer so you get to know them better than a 'regular' patient. you just have to remember the one thing guaranteed in life is death so it doesnt get to you if you lose someone since you do get to know people so well. i havent had an onc pt actually die here on the floor though so i dont have to see the actual death, they are off to hospice by that point or ICU. my patients are 95% older men as well who have lived a good amount of time and were able to experience life vs. working with peds patients or younger people, that would bother me a whole lot more. its not so bad working oncology, kind of nice most of the time. the nurses on my floor are way nicer than other units in our hospital and from my nursing school days i remember during clinicals the onc nurses were always the kindest. its rewarding days far outnumber the ones where you feel like you are just prolonging suffering.
Jan 6, '07
Do you live near a large cancer center? If so, you might look into PACU positions there. Sounds like it might combine two of your interests and you would not get quite as much of the emotionally draining stuff as you might if you worked on a hem/onc floor.
Jan 8, '07
Being and MA I do a little different work but here's my two cents. I work in a cancer tx center, not a hospital. Pt come to see Dr. get treatment , no over nights. I really enjoy working with all the different age groups( we see age 15- very old) It is hard seeing the ones who are very ill and die, but great to see the ones who recover and go on the live normal healthy lives. And I believe it is one field that is always changing and new things are being tried everyday.
Jan 11, '07
Last edit by oncomom on Jan 11, '07
: Reason: double post
Jan 11, '07
Im an onc nurse and I love this population. We have lots of frequent flyers so you really do develop relationships with these people (which I love). The downside to this of course, is that many of these people do die and it can be very hard on you emotionally especially if death is something you havent come to terms with. The work itself is rather exhausting (physically, mentally and emotionally at times), there is so much information to learn, so many changing protocols, new research (exciting stuff!), new drugs etc. Patients are needier...they require more education, more symptom management and more TLC than other areas Ive worked. There are a lot of rewards too. You will witness amazing and awe inspiring strength and perseverence from these people, you will see incredible success stories and you will meet people you will never forget. I would be happy to answer any other specific questions you may have.
Jan 13, '07
Hey oncomom! I would like to know what some of the nursing skills and treatments you give to your patients and what a typical day would be like. Thanks for the reply.
Jan 19, '07
It depends...i work in an outpatient/ambulatory setting...its not depressing as people think...if you are working inpatient, well thats different...we are a comprehensive cancer center and we do clinical research, thats challenge for me...
Feb 13, '07
plum94 are you in the NJ/NY area? I'm thinking about oncology, but I was worried about the emotional strain. Now I know outpatient onc is something to look into.
Feb 14, '07
I work on an adult hematology/oncology floor. We get a lot of frequent flyers, so you get to know the patient and family well. As far as treatments, the patients are usually on a ton of IV antibiotics. They are getting chemo, so there's the precautions for that. Also steroids and assorted PO meds. We have to hang a lot of blood and platelets. Some patients have peg tubes, NG tubes, ostomies, trachs. May have some pressure sores. They usually have other problems that just cancer, like heart disease, for example.
I think it's an rewarding field. The patient and family have a rapport with you, and you become part of their support system. I don't find it emotionally taxing at all. I see it as my duty to put my best face forward to help my patient fight the good fight. Cheesey, maybe, but if I look scared, the patient will be too.
Feb 15, '07
I have worked on an oncology/palliative care unit for almost 4 years now. I love it, but yes, it can be hard. We do not see the miracles on our unit, we don't see the success stories, we don't see people cured from cancer. Not on our unit anyways. We take comfort and joy in managing symptoms of the cancer or following chemo/radiation or at end of life. Our "success" comes from making death as peaceful as possible and extending the quality time people can spend with their loved ones. We do build strong relationships with our families and patients. It can be very emotionally and physically draining. It has taken me almost 4 years to learn how to take care of myself in both these areas and how to reach out for help when I need it. So yes, it's hard, it's tough, but it's so rewarding.
Feb 25, '07
Hey PacuRn.... I have done onc since 84 first as a LPN then since 96 as a RN. Have floated pretty much everywhere and can't imagine working with any other pt. population. I see the best of the best and courage and grace under fire. A typical day... high stress emotionally, mentally and physically. You give lots of chemo, blood products, deal with XRT pts, lots of family interaction, critical thinking and sometimes critical situations for which death is inevitable. You deal a lot with central lines, drawing labs, peg tubes,incontience, being proactive with mucositis,skin care, fatigue and nutriton. It is absolutely wonderful. Of course our pts. stay longer and you get to know the whole family, extended family, and feel like you make a difference. These are the most gracious of pts. and I have and continue to learn a lot from them. Good Luck in whatever field you choose....... Sassy Travel On.
Feb 25, '07
I never thought I would work in oncology but I am and love it! I work in an outpatient cancer center where pts come for radiation and chemo. I work on the chemo side administering infusions. My day is filled with accessing many ports, some IVs and delivering chemo. Some weeks we do brachytherapy procedures which are done under conscious sedation. We are closed on weekends and open during the week 8-1630+ I work 4 days. It is busy but not usually hectic like my past experinces in med-surg/ortho hospial work. Nothing is STAT. It is a good combo of sitting and moving, not too hard on the feet! As far as depressing work....there are occassions of sadness but most days are filled with joy - pts are so positive and grateful for each day and yes, we even have a lot of laughter! It is actually a fun place to work and the commarderie of our medical team is wonderful. I tried as a traveler and stayed........:smilecoffeecup:
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