Happy Oncology Nurses month to all of the amazing bedside clinicians, advanced practice providers, professors, and academic researchers! This year has proven to be a transformational year that marks the 200th birthday anniversary of Florence Nightingale, as well as the 18th year of nurses being recognized as the most honest and ethical professions. Until this year, oncology nurses have been the only specialty among nursing that has been recognized by a professional organization as a one-month celebration.
From the moment a patient is diagnosed with cancer, nurses are there to provide the priceless gift of presence. They listen as patients lay in bed with fear behind their eyes of, “Why me? What about my spouse and children? What am I going to do about my financial obligations? Will I die from this disease?” It is nurses who whisper in the steal of the night shift, “We will take it one day at a time” and offer encouragement that is often never forgotten.
As the treatment plan is determined by the physicians, it is the nurse who eloquently provides ongoing teaching of the chemotherapy regimen, symptom management, and non-pharmacological treatments. The nurse is the liaison who provides advocacy and a bridge to the medical team to communicate the holistic needs of the patient. When the patient can’t begin to comprehend the information the doctor provides regarding statistical analysis of their disease, it is the nurse who possesses the ability to facilitate open-ended questions that convey the patient had no idea what was just communicated to them.
And even as the trajectory of illness may prove to be unfavorable, the nurse is often the last healthcare professional bedside the dying patient to ensure a peaceful death. They provide pain relief and symptom management to ensure the last memories of the family are meaningful despite the transition to palliative instead of curative care. Nurses provide the final bath to ensure the dignity of the patient remains obtained; coordinate donation of organs if eligible; and facilitate a safe transfer to the mortuary. Even as the family prepares to exit the hospital for the last time without their love one, it is the nurse who offers therapeutic condolences to remind a family they weren’t “just another patient.”
It is without saying, that a nurse is “not just a nurse.” From the bedside to the boardroom, nurses are leaders, practitioners, scientists, and transferors of knowledge. The longevity of care that oncology nurses provide is insurmountable and is the true essence of a job worthy of recognition.
Stephanie Jackson is co-editor in chief of Oncology Nursing News and a nationally board-certified clinical nurse specialist specializing in oncology and bone marrow transplantation. She is currently the clinical nurse specialist for the hematology/stem cell transplantation units at a large academic medical center in Los Angeles, California. She has over 2 decades of nursing experience which includes various positions such as acute care, ambulatory, academia, home health, and hospice. She is a member of several professional nursing and community organizations. Some notable mentions include the National Council of Clinical Nurse Specialist, Association of Clinical Nurse Leaders and Oncology Nurses Society. She is the former president of the Greater Los Angeles chapter of Oncology Nursing Society and is currently pursuing her doctorate at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. It is without doubt that her passion for oncology patient stems from her own experience and survival of childhood cancer.