OB/GYN nursing is not for me. After living the delivery experience twice with my own children, I nearly fainted when I watched a birth during my clinical rotations in nursing school.
A CNM, however, showed me exactly the type of nurse that I wanted to be. She was an amazing advocate who spent time teaching and empowering me during my own pregnancy. My daughter was delivered VBAC into this woman’s arms.
Being heroic by being exemplary deserves profound respect
She was fully present at every encounter that I had with her. Through this experience, I learned that good nurses are competent but great nurses are fully present.
While working on my BSN, I volunteered at a local hospice. Knowing that I would encounter death in all nursing specialties, I needed to test myself. I needed to know that I could handle this ever-present aspect of nursing.
Introduction to oncology
Through the experiences I had volunteering for this hospice, I was introduced to oncology. Over time, I would learn that this is my passion in nursing. I value the human to human connections built during intimate and vulnerable times – just like those that I experienced with my CNM.
Still in nursing school, I was hired as a CNA at the same hospice. My first visit was to the home of a person entering the active dying phase. This was my very first morning on my very first day of the job. I was shadowing an experienced CNA as she diligently cared for the list of patients assigned to her team. The sun beamed down on my crisp new turquoise scrubs as my preceptor and I walked into a well-kept brick home.
That day I cared for the same CNM who delivered my daughter. She was young. She was beautiful. She was talented and I had so much respect for her. And she died – peacefully in her home – but she died.
We are not omnipotent and our superpowers are intangible
Cancer has a way of re-writing life stories and creating waves of emotion. The scars, the side effects, and the stings don’t make it easy. The pathway through can be confusing – gibberish words and time that moves fast and slow at the same time. This is certainly true for the person diagnosed with cancer and it can be true for anyone – including the nurses – involved in the experience.
Cancer challenges who you are as a person and where you fit into the world. That day – my first day of work in healthcare – I learned that nurses are human. We are not omnipotent and our superpowers are intangible. Our heroics are best observed within the human to human connections that we build between ourselves and others.
Carrying the wisdom that I absorbed from the connections between myself and this CNM, I finished nursing school and became an Oncology Certified Nurse. Caring for people diagnosed with cancer involves and intricate network of support. It requires that everyone within the network is fully present.
Mentioning that I am an oncology nurse often evokes sad sentiments, crinkled faces, and downward inflections. To which I respond, “There are success stories!” Even in death, the CNM succeeded. She died peacefully. Successes come in all sizes and forms – patients recover from cancer, they go through treatment with well-managed side effects and death can come peacefully.
The CNM inspired me to value showing up, doing my best, and being a fully present nurse. By embodying these qualities, the CNM was memorable, conveyed her knowledge, and significantly impacted my nursing practice.
Throughout my career, I have connected with countless nurses doing the same thing – they show up, do their best, and work to be fully present nurses.
These are the things that make nurse superpowers tangible.