So what is it like being an oncology nurse? - page 2

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... Read More

  1. by   Purple Hugs
    Thanks, thats pretty much how I've seen the care, and diagnosis with my mum. The truth hurt but it was appreciated. I just wasn't sure if this was the norm or not.

    I think people have the right to make that choice, all be it a tough one.
  2. by   ProfRN4
    Quote from CNM2B
    I'm betting the kids are the hardest???
    That's an undersstatement!! Never worked in adult onc, but kids are a totally different breed. I'm not going put mor or less value on a child's life (compared to an adult), but my guess is, it's sadder. Kids adapt better, beleive it or not. They keep playing, watching TV, and being kids. With some exceptions, you rarely get kids who have the 'woe is me' attitude. Most eventually succumb to the dreaded meds and mouthcare. Unfortunately they don't know what's best for them, and the consequences of noncompliance (but their parents do, most of them that is). But they do reach an age where it starts to sink in.

    You gotta try it to find out if you like it. It's the last place I expected to be working, but I love it
  3. by   RN-PA
    I work on a 61 bed med-surg unit divided into East and West, and the East side, 29 bed unit has an oncology emphasis. I've been working on East for a couple of years, and just within the last three weeks, have been deeply affected by a few of the patients I care for. One of those patients died 20 minutes before I arrived for my 3-11 shift yesterday, and I'd frequently had him as a patient over the past 3 weeks he'd been there and had become attached to him. He was in his early 60's, had chest tubes, NG tube, jejunostomy feeding tube, pain, and the man never complained. He had such dignity and grace about his condition, although as his prognosis became poorer, he was in denial and wouldn't talk about the end being near. I got to comfort his wife as we stood at the foot of his bed, 20 minutes after his death, and am thankful that I had the opportunity to care for them. But I'm sad and will need to cry about this sometime soon. Just haven't gotten there yet...

    This patient had had a roomate who I admitted two weeks ago in his early 60's as well, with newly diagnosed metastatic cancer. This man appeared healthy, worked on his laptop, did business over the phone, etc. Was discharged and then readmitted after a week or so with intractable pain. He was put on a morphine drip and was dead in 3 days. He died last Thursday, 3 days before his ex-roomate died who I described above.

    We don't get peds. on this unit, but the younger patients with cancer are definitely the hardest to deal with, men and women in their 30's, 40's and 50's. I deal with the sadness through tears, talking, strenuous exercise, and through praying on my own for my patients and their families. Also, I'm thankful that I also get a wide variety of patients: Appy's, lap chole's, gastric bypass, pneumonia, COPD, and all the others med-surg units typically admit, so caring for them becomes sort of a respite from the cancer patients. I don't want to work anywhere else, even with the sad times, since it's rewarding to care for these patients and their families that we all get to know through their frequent hospitalizations. The patients and families are frequently inspiring as they deal with their prognoses, side effects of chemotherapy, and their surgeries. And I try to care for them as holistically as possible-- Body, mind, and spirit, but unfortunately, the hectic pace of med-surg and nurse to patient ratios don't often allow me to give the quality of care I'd like to give.
  4. by   ProfRN4
    Funny, you say the regular med/surg patients are your respite. I, on the other hand do not have the patience for these patients in peds. I probably sound so insensitive whrn I say this (and I have a child too), but I can't deal with the way these parents react to their kids who have a gastro, an abcess on their hand, or pneumonia. I know if it were my kid, I'd probably feel differently (I cried the first time she threw up at 8 months old), but after my experience in onc., everything is now relative. To me these pts. are like the princes/princesses of the floor: they (parents) don't want you to touch them or do vitals, don't understand the importance of compliance, don't feel the need to tell us how much they ate/drank, or save dirty diapers, and constantly focus on discharge. I know it's very stressful to have your child hospitalized, but there's a reason they need to be there, and they just don't get it. (Glad I got that off my chest :angryfire). Sad as it may be, give me an onc. pt. anyday. I'd rather run myself ragged, hang chemo after chemo, and clean up puke
  5. by   lmklpn
    I too decided to go to nursing school to be a oncology nurse after I took care of my mother while she was dieing of lung cancer. I was not a nurse at the time and having the privledge of taking care of her was the most spiritual experience of my life. I graduate in three weeks and have been offered a job on the transplant floor. After reading these comments it will help me to take into consideration what I should do. D
    does anyone have any advise?
  6. by   RNOCN2311
    I also went to oncology nursing after taking care of my father. Seeing things from his perspective gave me a different look at nursing. I'd been an ER nurse for 11 years. As frustrating as it can be when your flying around the department trying to fit all the treatments in, then fitting in a patient needing hydration of a blood transfusion when you have no rooms and a reaction in one of the rooms so your entire plan is shot to heck, I've never been so appreciated in my career. These patients facing death are appreciative for each thing and truly make it worth while. Oh, I have my moments when I think what am I doing, but then one of my favorite patients will smile at me and its all over. You have to be able to lose patients too. It's all part of the process.
  7. by   eternalsunshine
    [quote=bigjay;758258]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 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. [quote=bigjay;758258]

    I think BigJay has perfectly summed this up, it definately takes a certain type of person, you need to be senstive, compassionate but also have the ability not to allow it to burn you out emotionally as it can be incredibly emotionally charged, especially with the younger patients which can be absolutely heartbreaking.

    It is also challenging and a lot of the patients have very complex needs as someone earlier said when you get the Haematology patients who are neutropenic and can be very, very sick.

    You develop lots and lots of skills and you will definatley improve your communication skills as you are dealing with a lot of very senstive and emotional situations.

    I think this is an area (from my experience) where the Medical staff are more honest about the disease and do not push futile treatments and seem to have a good appreciation of death as a normal part of the cycle of life rather than constantly fighting against it.

    I work in Oncology but also do shifts in a hospice which is also incredibly rewarding. I wouldn't do anything else!

    Hope that helps
  8. by   jhlynngirl
    I became an oncology nurse in honor of someone special who touched my life for a very brief time. I went into this specialty straight out of nursing school, perhaps biting off a little more than I could chew. I did an internship in pediatric oncology for six months, then changed over to adults in the outpatient setting.

    Honestly, I do not see myself doing anything else. I am honered to be where I am, and to have had the opportunites to know the people I have cared for. I am truly grateful. My patients do more for me than I do for them. One day at a time, right? Live for today? I found a career where finally, my head and heart are in agreement.

    There are different hours and shifts, depending on what you do. I personally recommend outpatient chemotherapy for the beginner nurse. Start at the beginning. Learn how to access a port, perfect your IV skill (and you will!), learn blood draws and blood counts. It is important to learn infusion with chemotherapy, see the toxicities of the medications, and see what the different chemos do in terms of infusion reactions. Learn the different cancers, scans, treatment plans, research for chemotherapy protocols. I personally like outpatient because I enjoy seeing my patients when they are feeling well (they have to be well to get chemo). Working as an oncology nurse in the hospital you will see the other side: what happens to the patient when they hit a hard spot in there treatment regimens, when they are sick, or when the chemo does not work (end stage). People die, thats life. Someone once said to me: "Oncology? You must see alot of hard things", I said "Yes, but I see alot of beatiful things too." Death should be celebrated with the life that a person lived (I plan on doing hospice at some point in my career). At work, we have our hall of heros, pictures of all the brave people who battled with cancer.

    Pay? I not only get paid well, but I am doing something truly special for someone else, and they for me. It is a win-win. Nursing salary, as you may already know, increases with experience level.

    It is a great field, but you should have the heart of a lion. You will laugh, cry, and be humbled.
    Last edit by jhlynngirl on Dec 8, '07