Recently, I had a good friend approach me with a question related to cancer, and I must admit, I was initially stumped.
I am a new nurse with only two years of experience under my belt, but for some reason, that makes me an instant expert in anything medical, especially when it's related to oncology, according to my friends and family. This recent encounter, however, made me really think about my role as an oncology nurse and how it extends beyond the hospital.
Although my paycheck comes from the hospital organization that I work for, my role as a healthcare provider has a much broader reach. For my family members, friends, and even strangers who just happen to hear that I am an oncology nurse, I become a source of information, or comfort, depending on what they need.
Of course, this role needs to be handled with some caution and should not be a substitute for a comprehensive professional work-up, but regardless, I can't neglect my responsibility to assist in any way I can.
The incident involved one of my friends who called to tell me about his girlfriend who was recently diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia (APL). APL is a subtype of the cancer Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), and is usually found in very young children between the ages of two and three, and in adults over 40.
My friend's girlfriend is in her mid-twenties, so having this diagnosis was somewhat shocking and frightening. In the course of her treatment, she developed some temporary vision loss and depression. When my friend called me, he wasn't looking for me to treat her medically, or to offer any more advice, necessarily. He needed assurance that I, his friend who also happens to be a nurse, would use my experience and resources to offer comfort in any way possible.
That brought a question to mind: What is the role of the oncology nurse to friends and family members? When does the situation warrant advice, and when is comfort and consolation appropriate?
As it turns out, our oncology team at work is fantastic, and responds promptly to any request. I called one of our Cancer Care Navigators and asked if there was anything that could be done to provide relief for my friend and his girlfriend. Within a matter of days, I had several booklets and magazines that I could refer my friend to in his time of need.
After my friend used some of the complementary therapies that had been offered through these resources, he called me and thanked me for being there to help out. This is really why I love nursing, because I can be there for people when they need help, and being able to do so for friends and family makes it that much sweeter.
What are some of your "can I ask you a medical question" moments? Is there a healthy balance in offering advice and not diagnosing? How does being a nurse/healthcare worker affect your personal relationships?