A nurse helping a patient walk

Showing Gratitude to Oncology Nurses

Nurses are such an important part of the cancer care team, and I hope we all show our gratitude to these professionals. For full disclosure, I am married to a nurse, so I am sensitive to showing appreciation. But all of us should appreciate the role of the nurse. Nurses are on the front line of care and play the role of giving compassionate care and helping serve the emotional needs of patients and their families. This is not saying that other members of the health care team are not important, such as doctors, respiratory therapists, radiation technicians and aides. But for me, it was the nurses that really made a difference while I was in the hospital.

Nurses help to make tough situations better

I spent 7 days in the hospital at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston after my lobectomy. When I woke up from surgery in the recovery room, I was so disoriented, and all the sounds seemed amplified. A nurse helped me relax. When I finally got to my room and was visited by my first nurse in that unit, she was also able to really calm me down and help me get settled.

Over the next 7 days I had many different nurses. All of them were awesome. Every few hours required chest physiotherapy (PT), which included percussion (clapping) on my back to keep my airways clear and prevent infection. The overnight nurse would wake me up in the middle of the night to make sure I kept on track. And the nurses helped me with mobile x-rays in my bed, and with monitoring my morphine drip.

From motivation to comfort, nurses do it all

Overall, my nurses helped keep me as comfortable as possible even though I had constant severe pain. My nurses also motivated me to get up and walk. The day after my surgery, I was told I had to get out of bed and walk (with all the IV’s attached to a pole with wheels). The first day I walked about 10 steps. By the 5th day I met my goal of walking a lap around the floor. I was so proud of this accomplishment! The nurses really helped me reach this goal by encouraging me at every step. When I had my chest tube removed (picture a garden hose sized tube stuck into your lung through an incision in your chest), my nurse was the one to calmly describe what to expect. Which was extreme pain!

Let's make sure we show our appreciation

I cannot overestimate the positive role that my nurses played during my stay in the hospital. I was fortunate to not have to get chemotherapy treatments after my surgery. However, I have visited chemo infusion rooms. An oncology infusion RN needs to be familiar with all areas of nursing because oncology patients often have other underlying issues such as diabetes. And the infusion nurse must be knowledgeable in oncology/hematology diseases and in the hundreds of regimens employed to treat these diseases. All while being sensitive to the emotional journey the cancer patient is going through.

Nurses who take care of cancer patients are special people. I made sure I thanked my nurses every day that I was being cared for. I hope all of us will show gratitude to our nurses. It’s a difficult but important job.

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