Oncology nursing: The rewards and challenges

May 10, 2019 07:40 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- Imagine a job in which you handle agents so toxic they could make you sick if they touched your skin; you spend much of the day on your feet, and nearly every decision you make will affect the quality of someone's life.

That's a day on the job of a cancer care nurse. 


Crystal, one of the nurses who administers my intravenous chemotherapy, is a brilliant beauty with blazing red hair who educates as she medicates. As she administers my pre-meds, drugs that help quiet the vicious side effects of chemo, she answers my onslaught of questions.  

Crystal is a walking, talking wealth of information whose knowledge is matched only by her compassion. It's an essential combination in oncology nursing - intellect and empathy.    

"Knowing both the science, the biology, the pathophysiology, to what's behind educational requirements that patients need to have, to empathy and caring, to recommendations for side effects," said Marie Flannery, RN PhD, OAOCN as she explained the depth and breadth of experience, knowledge and training required of oncology nurses. 

Flannery was an oncology nurse practitioner for years before becoming a professor of nursing at the University of Rochester. 

"When administering chemotherapy, we've learned a lot about not only the risk to the patient, but also the nurses that will be handling it," said Flannery.

That's because many drugs are so toxic some can be absorbed through the skin. So my nurse is gloved and gowned while handling my chemo. Oncology nurses do it all while also helping to meet the emotional needs of patients fighting the ultimate beast, cancer.

That's why my boys and I took gifts to the nurses who have helped me achieve the ultimate goal in cancer care, remission.

It's a goal achieved largely because of the care of the many nurses at Pluta Cancer Center.  And while I'm still getting chemo, I can now honestly say I'm healthy, happy and whole. And so to these nurses I say, "Thank you."


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