Few life-threatening or terminal diseases present themselves in otherwise healthy, alert, and charming hosts the way cancer does.
From the get-go, oncologists are not only captain of the ship; they hoist life preservers to patients drowning in waves of shock after a cancer diagnosis.
Out of all the medical specialists, oncologists' hearts most closely resemble those of nurses. This characteristic is attributed to the fact that although oncologists do not spend the same quantity of time at patients' bedside as nurses, the quality of the time they spend is intense. They often form relationships with their patients that last for years. It's also not uncommon for an oncologist to know close members of their patient's family, like nurses do.
During my last episode of possible (it wasn't) recurrence, I experienced this truth.
My oncologist and I share a professional relationship. One of the reasons he's my oncologist is because I know he's good at what he does. My husband likes him, too. They share an easy communication, which is the second reason I chose this oncologist. If/when cancer recurs, I know the two of them will cooperate on my care, freeing me to be the patient, not the nurse. This arrangement brings me peace of mind.
Anyway, I was experiencing suspicious symptoms, which landed me face down in an MRI. My appointment to receive the MRI results was scheduled at end of the workday for my oncologist.
David, my husband, accompanied me. Dr. My Choice entered the exam room holding the films, which he clipped to the light box. "I haven't looked at these yet," he explained. "I thought we could see them at the same time."
In a flash, it hit me: Dr. My Choice is fond of us, too. He was about to find out if he would tell a nurse he enjoys working with, and her husband, whether or not her cancer has recurred.
Snap! What have I done to him?
The films revealed I was still cancer free. The expression of relief on Dr. My Choice's face almost equaled David's.
Oncologists have feelings, too. This knowledge affects the professional relationships of nursing practice in the following ways:
- When questioning an order, assume the oncologist has good intentions toward his or her patient, same as you.
- Avoid framing questions to an oncologist with personal inferences, such as opinions of whether or not the oncologist is "good" or "bad."
- Consider that oncologists suffer from work overload, and burn out, as do nurses.
- Remember that being part of a team is catching one another when we fall. No one is on top of his or her game every time.
- Protect the Rock Star Oncologist (every unit has one) by double-checking their orders the same as you do for any other oncologist. Don't let them fall to earth because you were not diligent in providing a safety net for their patients, too.
Education is the tool of our trade. It is our demeanor, which makes us professionals.