Monday, November 24, 2008

Oncology Nurse on Purpose

When I meet someone for the first time and they ask what I do, I say, “I’m an oncology nurse.” It’s always the same response. If they know what oncology is, they then tilt their head to the side and say, “Aw, that must be hard.” That’s where I have a hard time knowing how to respond. They’ve already assumed I work at a horrible place, and now I must simple agree with it. But I don’t. How can you say, “No, actually I like it,” without sounding like a heartless woman who enjoys the suffering of others? You can’t.
So then I have to explain myself. "Actually, we’re an active treatment hospital. On my unit they walk in and walk out, because they come for overnight surgery or a day or two or three of chemotherapy. We have very few deaths on our unit. And I like the oncology population. They’re very real. They are dealing with the big issues of life and they usually want to talk about it. Sometimes, they just need to tell their 'story', how they were diagnosed, or how they’re treatment is going. I enjoy teaching patients, letting them know what to expect with their chemo or surgery, or talk with them about how they're coping. I get a lot of satisfaction when a patient says, 'Thanks.'” Then, they kind of understand.

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