Personal hx of cancer & going into onc nursing...

  1. Hi all,

    I am a new ADN grad, job-hunting. Passed my NCLEX-RN last week, so that's taken care of. I went to nursing school because of a personal interest in cancer and cancer risk issues -- my mom was dx'd with breast ca when she was 34, and died at 36, I have a lot of other family hx of cancer, and in my late 20s discovered that I am a BRCA2 mutation carrier. I had DCIS at 34 (before nursing school), and a bilateral mastectomy. Then to everyone's surprise (especially mine!), I had a local recurrence, this time an IDC, luckily small, and node neg, dx'd the summer between my 1st and 2nd yr of school. Spent all of my first semester doing chemo and rads, but still managed a 4.0 GPA (my little "nice try, sucker!" to cancer). I have recovered from treatment very well, and am considered cancer-free.

    My experiences have only strengthened my resolve to work in oncology. I really believe I have a lot to offer. The job market for new grads is very tough in my area right now, but I am not ready to give up just yet. I am eager to get OCN certification ASAP, and that means getting a year of oncology nursing experience ASAP.

    Here is my question for those of you in the field: How relevant/helpful/irrelevant is my own cancer hx when it comes to onc nursing? Obviously, I'm not going to put it on my resume, but is it something that you would mention in a job interview? I honestly feel like my experiences will be advantageous to my nursing practice -- although I would never generalize my individual experience to everyone with cancer, I do have a unique perspective on the physical and and psychosocial issues, teaching needs, etc. of patients facing at least certain types of cancer dx. Or could that be seen as "poor me, I had cancer, give me a job, boo-hoo-hoo"? Or just unprofessional -- ie, thinking personal health hx has a bearing on the ability to provide good patient care?

    Thanks so much for you feedback. Your honest answers are much appreciated!

    Best,
    Drea
  2. Visit dreavt profile page

    About dreavt, ADN

    Joined: Apr '09; Posts: 75; Likes: 23
    Oncology RN; from US
    Specialty: 6 year(s) of experience in Hematology/Oncology

    9 Comments

  3. by   WittleOnesRN
    Many nurses in Oncology have experienced cancer themselves or a family member. It will make you a better Onc Nurse as your compassion is deepened and personal. I was asked about why I wanted to work in Onc during my interview...you may be asked the same. You can tell the truth no need to hide it. I started in Onc as a New Grad last year and I cant imagine doing any other nursing.
  4. by   Chica_bella813
    Yes I agree. Your experience will cause you to be more empathetic to your patient. I would mention it if asked. I also graduated from nursing school and went into oncology. I did it for 6 yrs.

    I left because the population of patients was getting younger and younger. I am a tough cookie but I have a tender heart when giving chemo to a teen or a young child. Broke my heart so I had to get out of oncology.

    But I thouroughly enjoyed oncology and learned alot. I want to say to you that you are soooooooo brave and highly motivated and intelligent to overcome the obstacles that you endured during school.

    You are a survivor and I wish you the very best. You are resilient and can overcome anything that comes you way!! Kudos to you!!!

    God bless you and continue to remain healthy and strong:redpinkhe
  5. by   dreavt
    I'm sorry for the delay in replying -- busy-busy! I appreciate your replies. I actually saw my med onc for a follow up visit today and let it drop (oh so casually) how much I want to work in oncology and next thing I know I was chatting with the nursing supervisor of the clinic! Both my onc and the NS agreed that personal experience is an asset not a liability. I was treated at a fairly large teaching hospital with a big beauracracy, so getting through HR and the recruiters to the actual *jobs* is still tricky -- but I have hope!

    Thanks again!
  6. by   kookiepumpkin
    Sounds a little like my own story. I am a breast cancer survivor. Which caused me to change my specialty to oncology 8 months ago. When I went for my interview my hair was still very short, I thought everyone would guess. But I didn't admit to my own Hx until later because I felt that it should not be part of a hiring process.
    Although it has given me a different perspective, I rarely mention any of my own experience to my patients. I took a palliative care class where we discussed this and were told that it is not about us but about the patient and were they are in their process. It is debatable but I am comfortable with that decision. I can still use my own experience without going into details.
    I also am not so sure anymore that onc is "my calling" longterm. I find that I can't keep up with the workload, am more stressed because of it and disappointed that I can't spend enough time with my patients because there is too much to do. Nevertheless am I going to a Chemo class in three week and plan on getting certified.
  7. by   dreavt
    Just to followup -- I did get an interview for a position on the inpatient hem/onc unit, and I did refer to my cancer experiences (briefly, and then I referred back to them a few times when relevant to further questions) both when I was talking to the nurse recruiter and to the unit manager. *And* I got the job! Yay! Very excited!

    Thanks so much for your input!

    Best,
    Drea
  8. by   kookiepumpkin
    Congratulations! Hope it works out for you!
  9. by   Nurse_Diane
    Quote from dreavt
    Just to followup -- I did get an interview for a position on the inpatient hem/onc unit, and I did refer to my cancer experiences (briefly, and then I referred back to them a few times when relevant to further questions) both when I was talking to the nurse recruiter and to the unit manager. *And* I got the job! Yay! Very excited!

    Thanks so much for your input!

    Best,
    Drea
    Congratulations, Drea!!

    All the best,
    Diane
  10. by   MLMRN1120
    My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer at 32..luckily, she beat it...I am 24 and have not gotten genetic testing done yet, but I plan on it...anyway, to answer your actual question..I interviewed for an Oncology position (which I start on Monday ) and when asked why I wanted to work in Oncology, I did briefly mention my family's personal hx with cancer. I think it shows that you will treat every oncology patient with the same care you would want your own family member to receive, and brings a human aspect to a specialty that some people might find "depressing"..I know many people have asked me why I would want to work in " a place where everyone is dying" but I would rather see it as a place where patients can make the best out of each day they have...
  11. by   Itshamrtym
    Quote from dreavt
    Just to followup -- I did get an interview for a position on the inpatient hem/onc unit, and I did refer to my cancer experiences (briefly, and then I referred back to them a few times when relevant to further questions) both when I was talking to the nurse recruiter and to the unit manager. *And* I got the job! Yay! Very excited!

    Thanks so much for your input!

    Best,
    Drea
    Congrats to you!!!!! Thanks for sharing your very inspiring story. YOu are a very strong, special person and will do fabulous with your new career in ONC... take care

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