Too close to the situation for comfort? - page 2

by JTinKY 5,665 Views | 17 Comments

I'm a nursing student and seriously considering Oncology nursing when I graduate. This is primarily due to my own history as an oncology patient. I am a six-year survivor of a very rare type of young-adult cancer and I was... Read More


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    I have extensive orthopedic hx personally and thought the last place I would like to work is ortho. wrong! I can totally relate to the pts, understand the pain, etc. I think it makes me a better nurse. I think you would be great with the personal experience you have had.
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    It would make me feel worse. But that's me, others feel differently. I would feel like there was no escaping my diagnosis.
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    Thanks everyone, for the input. I think my friend is mostly concerned about my emotions overtaking me because I'm a "heart on my sleeve" type. That is a very real concern for me but I'd rather feel too much than too little, you know? Plus like most things, I'm sure it will get easier to manage with experience.
    SoldierNurse22 likes this.
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    I'm in the same position as you are, JTinKY - I'm a nursing student and cancer survivor who wants to work with cancer patients when I become an RN. I'm sure there will be times when I identify strongly with a cancer patient, and that might bring up some negative memories of my cancer experience (I had Hodgkin's lymphoma in 1996). But I honestly believe there are many more positives than negatives.

    One thing I remember distinctly when I was a going through chemo/radiation was that even though I had a terrific support system of friends and family, sometimes I needed to talk to people that had experienced what I was going through and could understand everything I was dealing with. I got that connection from fellow cancer patients. After I had been in remission for a few years I volunteered in the chemo room at Duke Cancer Center, and just about everyone I sat and talked with appreciated that I had been a patient myself and really understood their thoughts and fears.

    I don't think a nurse HAS to have been a cancer patient herself to provide wonderful care to an oncology patient, but I think it can be a positive if you let it.
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    When I was new to BMT and on orientation I met an RN with an interesting background. She wasn't just a cancer survivor, but a BMT survivor. I don't know that she openly shared her experiences with all her patients, but I do remember her telling a story about her opening up about it to a patient that was having a difficult time coping with her illness. In that case, the patient appreciated hearing about her personal experiences.
    Obviously having cancer is a very difficult time for all involved, and experiences can vary greatly. Having the personal experience, and having the understanding of what a patient is going through emotionally might be a big plus. As long as you can separate your personal experience enough to understand that every patient is different, and everyone responds to treatment differently.

    I too "wear my heart on my sleeve" and my first six months on the BMT unit were horrible for me; I cried almost every day. Now, it's the only specialty I want to work in. My patients seem to appreciate the emotional connection I make with them, even the hardy ones who act like nothing gets them down. They say I'm "charming" or I "am the sunshine" (I tell them I brought it with me from California). Don't look at it as something that will hold you back. Being a caring individual, being comfortable talking about the uncomfortable feelings and personal issues are things that will really make you a great nurse, and are probably some the qualities in you that call you to be one.

    Since you're still in nursing school, maybe you can do your preceptorship on an oncology floor to see if it's a good fit. Even if you get a job in oncology later, give it at least six months before throwing in the towel if you find yourself having a tough time.

    Of course, I'm one of those who believes everyone should do med surg for at least a year before picking a specialty; just because you see EVERYTHING, and you really hone in key nursing skills . Good luck to you in whatever specialty you choose.
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    Every nurse you will ever work with will tell you this: Don't settle and work where you love. So many nurses get into fields that they have either no relation to, or if they do, don't care for that type of nursing. Personally, I have worked on an Hem/Onc/BMT floor and really love it. I love to see people overcome things and that is an aspect of that particular unit that you will see quite a bit of. But on the other end of the spectrum, I also LOVE the operating room unit. Patients are unconscious, the work hours are great (patients come first, but also what works BEST for YOU matters too), and you work closely with surgeons (most nurses do NOT like this due to some of the attitudes of surgeons, but I find this field extremely fascinating so I tolerate it). Also, on this unit you will run into MRSA infections, VRE infections, which if you have little ones at home, isn't the best idea to be treating these types of patients. Also, my unit mixes IMED with our Hem/Onc patients which is crazy because you could have an IMED total care patient who just came out of surgery who is 95yrs old and a 40yr old who is having a BMT who just needs help to get to the bathroom without falling. It all comes back to what are you passionate about. Personally, my mother-in-law passed away from cancer, also my own mother had a scare with it, so I really saw first hand how cancer treatment and deaths affect a family. I say do what you love and if it doesn't work out for you or you don't like it then keep searching. Someone once told me that medical professionals are natural risk takers to voluntarily dedicate their lives to medicine and the treatment of the sick so we are naturally going to try to keep searching for what gives us that medical thrill throughout our careers. I wish you the best of luck and hope you love it!
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    Don't listen to what other people say. If you think being in an Oncology unit is the best place for you, then go for it. I don't think your own experience will stop you from doing your job professionally rather it will help you become a rock-star nurse who can understand the patient's feelings and pain a lot better.
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    The nurse that did my chemo-administration test out became an onc nurse because she had colon cancer--she worked in the same office she had chemo in. She could really relate to her patients, having just recently gone through the same thing. I think you just have to look at yourself and decide what the best fit is for you.


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