Working as an inpatient oncology nurse for the past three years has helped to shape me as a professional in many ways. However, my appreciation for inpatient care stems from my experience within the outpatient setting.
I had the privilege of having a community health nurse as my preceptor during nursing school, and was able to see firsthand how patients interact with the healthcare system from a distance. This experience showed me how important it was for some patients to receive healthcare from the comfort and familiarity of their own home. This was especially true when we collaborated with the hospice nurses to make home visits -- seeing patients who were facing death helped me appreciate the need for patients to have a sense of control in their treatment.
Recently, I had the opportunity to help out in the outpatient oncology clinic, and it has been a great experience. Being able to talk with the patients and see them out of the acute phase of their disease is hopeful for me as a nurse.
Working on the inpatient side gives us a brief picture of what the patient actually goes through from diagnosis to treatment. But most of the time, we only see them in the initial phase of their treatment and then sporadically as they battle with side effects. So, our view of the patient’s experience is greatly limited. Then, we occasionally we see them as they enter the palliative phase if they experience disease progression and/or are no longer responsive to treatment.
I consider it a blessing to be able to see all aspects of the treatment process for my patients. If it were possible, I would love to be able to walk through the entire treatment and recovery phases with each patient, and I think I speak for all oncology healthcare professionals when I say that.
Having a more complete picture of how the patient and their support system work through cancer care definitely gives me passion and drive to seek out more information and resources to assist in the journey.
Has your experience in the inpatient and outpatient settings shaped your nursing career in any way? What benefit have you seen from working in both settings?