What it means to be an oncology nurse

To be an Oncology nurse is more than a job. It is a commitment. You pledge to do your very best to make a small difference in your patients lives. You get to know someone during their worst hour, right after they heard those frightening words: “you have cancer.” At that point their lives, careers, and families are impacted in ways that nobody could foresee. I usually say that their lives have just turned upside down: a statement that sadly patients can’t deny.

As they try to navigate through the maze called “health care,” bouncing from one appointment to the next, drinking all sorts of ill-tasting contrast solutions, getting poked in every which way, hearing terms they cannot grasp, they feel completely overwhelmed. They need an Oncology Nurse! It is our responsibility to help patients through this difficult road. To give them chemo is but a small part of what we do.

As we look at the patients and their families, we can see fear in their eyes and hear uncertainty in their voices. So we help them to make some sense of all the information, instructions, precautions, medications, side effects…the list goes on and on. We become their point of reference and we find the trust in their eyes and hope in their voices. That is a privilege.

If my patients believe that I really care, when they understand that I am willing to walk the extra mile so they don’t have to, then I know that I am keeping the commitment. I am their advocate, because they have become part of my family and they have welcomed me into theirs. We cry together to the sound of bad news, but we laugh at the sight of our own silliness. We take just one day at a time, and we thank God for every victory, big or small.

The best part, though, is when my patients give me a hug, say they love me, and smile as they express their genuine appreciation for what we nurses do. That makes it all worth it!

Maria Cline, RN, OCN

Maria Cline has worked at Riverview since June 2000 and has worked in the Short Stay Unit at Riverview for the past nine years.