The honest answer is no, everyone can not handle this. but those of us who do are the luckiest nurses in the world.
I have heard for years that oncology nurses are "angels" or "special people" or whatever wonderful thing they are calling us now. boy have we got the rest of the world fooled!! We have the most awesome patients, the best families, the best staff, the best docs, etc etc.
Truly, there are patients who touch your heart in ways that cannot be explained. You give pieces of yourself away to these people and you are so rewarded for that. I have never given more to a patient than they have given to me. I just can't tell you how taking care of these people and being there for them during this time of there lives comes back to you to enrich your life.
A long time ago, a dear patient of mine passed. He was 33, had a wonderful wife and 2 small children - ages 3 and 6. I was so focused on the fact that we had failed (I was a new grad and still thought modern medicine could fix anything
) His wife said to me, just minutes after his death, "everyone has to die, but dying doesn't have to be bad. You made his death dignified and special." sniff sniff sniff - still gets me. Just this summer I spoke with the wife again, after a similar situation happened with another patient. she said "all these years later, when I look back, I don't think about how horrible it was, I think about you and I smile. Don't ever question that you made the difference"
Is there any wonder that I love oncology?
come on over and try it out. it's not for everyone, but if you have even the most remote interest, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.
Sorry for the long winded response, I tend to get passionate about my patients!