Why did you join nursing?
There is always a soft spot in my heart for the sick and the needy and I wanted a job that I knew I could touch someone’s life every day. Somehow, I just knew that being a nurse was my calling. To be honest, being a nurse has got to be one of the most challenging jobs ever, but I have never regretted it a single day. Nursing has not only given me joy but also a huge sense of job satisfaction knowing that I can touch someone’s life everyday.
What is your role as a radiation oncology nurse?
My role involves caring for patients during their entire course of treatment. I help these patients identify potential side effects, nurse their wounds, provide nursing education, and offer support or counselling whenever and wherever needed.
What is your typical day like?
My days are never really exactly the same because every patient is different and every patient comes to us for different reasons. For patients who are here for their first day of treatment, I will walk them through their treatment by helping them understand what will happen and what is to be expected. Sometimes, when I sense their anxiety, I will try to provide support and assurance to them. For those who are here for post-treatment follow-ups, I will assess their skin condition and nutritional status to help propose how to deal with their long term side effects so that they can live more confidently and comfortably. For the majority who come to us for daily treatment, I would make sure they are at ease and comfortable and check on their wounds (if any) regularly.
What do you think are the most important traits a nurse need to have?
Definitely Patience and Compassion. I think these are the two most important qualities a nurse should have, regardless of their training background or specialty. While we are unable to make diagnoses and prescribe medications like doctors, but as nurses, we can definitely dispense comfort, compassion, and care with a healthy dose of patience (even without the need of a prescription).
What do you think patients most appreciate about you?
I think they appreciate the fact that I am always ‘with’ them. Nursing is really a “24 hours” job. It doesn’t stop even after your shift has ended because you don’t only nurse the patient’s wound, you nurse the patient’s heart. My patients have my number and I always tell them “I’m only a phone call away”. I suppose this personalized care is what all patients appreciate most, knowing that someone is always there for them, any hour of the day.
What is one thing you learned from working as a Radiation Oncology Nurse?
I learned that my job as an oncology nurse is really about cushioning our patients sorrows and celebrating their joys and I get to do this everyday by simply doing my job. This has added so much meaning to my life! Patients may forget our names but they will always remember how we make them feel.
What is the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding thing is being able to make a difference in someone’s life especially knowing that the friendship forged (with patients and families) remains even after their treatments have ended. Every patient and their story is different. I enjoy talking to them and at the same time, encourage and inspire them in every little way that I can. If you hear a new patient say that they’ve heard so much good things about us from a previous patient, you know you have done something right.
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Almost all my patients are diagnosed with cancer. To be honest, caring for cancer patients can be both physically and mentally draining. Some patients have got very poor prognosis and you know that they would not survive their illness. They can be a tad demanding, frustrated and emotional at times and in situations like this, you will need to find the balance between showing compassion and empathy and not suffer a burnout.
Tell us about one incident as a radiation oncology nurse that left a deep impression on you.
I recently had a patient under my care for a fungating breast wound. I have been talking to her daily since she first came to AARO and I also got to know her entire cancer journey – how it started and the ordeal she went through. She was only in her 40s but her cancer cells had spread all over. I knew she was racing against time, but she was always so bright and cheerful whenever she saw me.Every dressing change was a challenge because her wound bled very easily. On one particular day, as I did her dressing because the tumour had grown bigger, she was grimacing in pain. I could tell that she was in a lot of discomfort.I tried my best to tend to her wound as gently as I could. Before I knew it, I felt her hand on mine. She was almost tearing as she looked at me in the eyes and despite her pain, she started thanking me for looking after her all this time. In that very moment, my heart ached.Thankfully with radiation treatment, her fungating tumour shrunk and is now hardly visible. Though she still has cancer cells in other areas of her body, she is now extremely elated that her wound is so much more manageable. The improvement in her body has boosted her confidence and self esteem. And I’m glad that though I may not be able to add days to her life, I added life to her days.
What do you like to do most when you have time away from your job?
I like nature and sea. So during my spare time, I will bring my kids to either the beach or the park and spend the entire day out basking in the sun.
What makes AARO a special place to work in?
Every workplace has got their own work culture and I like the fact that AARO is a family-friendly organization. Staff welfare is being looked after and we even have the option of flexible working hours. Every staff in AARO is dedicated and committed and patients are always at the heart of all we do.