Saying thank you to the nurses in our lives
Kathryn Vinson, MS, CCRC
Oncology Nurses Heroes in Scrubs – With last week being Nurse’s Week, I began to think of all the amazing nurses I have known. For most of us, our first memory of a nurse is the sweetly countenanced school nurse that took care of our scrapes and comforted us when we got a sore throat. For me – it was Nurse Palmer. In my heart, I can still feel her comforting hugs. However, as we grow older, and are more aware of a nurse’s capabilities and training, we realize that she is so much more than that sweet lady, she is a highly skilled medical professional that has devoted years of her life to training and to advocating for her patients.
Throughout my education and career, I’ve been blessed to know a great number of nurses. Some were like mothers to me, some were mentors, and others are friends. It is said that nursing is a calling, and I think no truer statement could be made. While there are many pathways to becoming a nurse, a white paper entitled “The State of Nursing 2016” tells us that over 65% of nurses have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Just like doctors, many nurses choose to specialize, of which oncology nurses are a truly special breed. I am lucky enough to call one of these heroes a friend. Jennifer holds BSN, MSN, and MHA degrees, and is also an Oncology Certified Nurse. I asked her for some insight into what it takes to be an oncology nurse – the ups, the downs, the rewards, and the inevitable heartbreaks.
Jennifer agrees with the statement that nursing is a calling. When I asked her why she chose to become a nurse, she said “I believe the profession chose me, more than I chose it.” It was when she was working as a receptionist for a radiation oncology clinic that she began to feel the pull. “I took a medical terminology class and it was history after that.”
While there is certainly a great deal of scientific knowledge and expertise that goes into an oncology nurse’s training and daily routine, it is often their compassion that draws patients and caregivers to them. Jennifer tells me that being the patient’s advocate is the most rewarding part of her job. Educating people on their life-changing diagnoses, providing comfort to them, and “sharing the experience – regardless of the outcome – from beginning to end.” It is through that education and advocacy that she empowers her patients to be able to make decisions for themselves, that they have the power to say yes or no.
What you may not see from the treatment room is the hours of paperwork and administrative duties that are performed by nurses. Their patient advocacy turns from education and moral support to fighting insurance companies and other payors, as “financial health is now incorporated into the nurse’s holistic care of a patient.” Jennifer went on to explain that many of these large payors try to box each type of cancer into standardized treatments and only pay for those, despite what is felt to be correct by the medical professionals. She explains that this is the most difficult aspect of her job – tackling the barriers to quality care that unfortunately still exist today.
If you or a loved one find yourself struggling to pay for the medications that you need, don’t hesitate to look at our paged dedicated to Prescription Medicine Assistance. There are also a multitude of organizations dedicated to helping cancer patients and their families deal with the costs of life and treatment. Take a look at our Cancer Patient Funding page for a glimpse of just a few of these amazing groups.
As you can see, nurses wear a lot of hats during their shifts. They are truly heroes in scrubs – providing love and compassion all while delivering lifesaving cancer treatments. Information from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics is projecting a shortage of 1.2 million nurses by the year 2020. With this projected shortage, our amazing nurses will get worked even harder. What can you do to help? Say thank you, give a hug, send an appreciation gift. Let these fabulous health care providers know that they are valued. If you are interested in a nursing career, don’t hesitate to have a visit with a nurse – he or she will be happy to share their experiences and advice.