Oncology Nursing Chose Me

This is a guest blog from Erin E. She currently resides in Grand Rapids, MI with her family where she works on an inpatient oncology unit. I (Erica) am honored to call her not only a colleague but one of my dear, dear friends. Your heart is an inspiration, Erin!

I didn't choose to bean oncology

People often ask how I chose to work in oncology. I usually tell them my story and what brought me to Grand Rapids and my oncology patients. The truth is, oncology chose me. As a new nurse, I was hungry to work. I was yearning to put all my nursing skills from school to use. Every area in nursing was new and exciting. I wasn’t fully sure where I would thrive and which area I would enjoy best.

As a young nursing school student, I knew that the real training and learning would come on the job. I knew that I only touched the surface of what nursing was and what it really meant as a student. I was so grateful for the experiences I encountered in all my rotations in nursing school. Some experiences made me laugh, made me cry, and some changed my perceptions forever.

Sometimes the hardest question isn’t “am I going to die?” I think the hardest one is “how do I want to live?”

I was recently asked by one of our respiratory technicians how we can do what we do? I was confused. He said “people say working in peds is hard, but it’s nothing like this”. He did not typically care for oncology patients. He was familiar with pediatric patients and adult critical care patients. I said, “you work in the ICU. You must deal with difficult situations all the time”. For him, it was not the same. The stories were not the same. I guess it must be different when you get to know your patients and see them for weeks, or months. Some make their rooms like extensions of their home, which I thoroughly enjoy this time of year. I know so many have long battles ahead of them and I know so many will not win. Even though I know the outcome is inevitable, there are times when I hope for a miracle. Sometimes the hardest question isn’t “am I going to die?” I think the hardest one is “how do I want to live?”

It’s hard to think that something that can break your heart can also make it whole all at once. We do what we do, I say we because I do not do this alone, because we love our patients. We are also loved by them, and their love of others and their love of life is what keeps us going. While I may have chosen this profession, I am so glad oncology chose me. It has been thoroughly rewarding.

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