Do you know a physician, ARNP/PA, nurse or CNA? What comes to mind when you first think of them? Their personality, their strength, their friendliness? Are they happy, cynical, joke all the time? What best describes that person you love?
We get a lot of titles working in the medical field and truthfully, the job isn’t for everyone. I believe taking care of others in a medical fashion is a calling- you pick up the phone or you don’t. You know you were destined for it or you’re not. There’s no mistaking if you were called to attend to the needs of others before your self.
My dad is an ER MD and growing up, I thought he had the coolest job ever. I would beg him to tell me stories of what he saw last shift and I would listen with wide eyes and my ears burning. How freaking COOL, he had a stab victim walk into the ER walking and talking?! He brought a 20 year old back to life? That’s what I need! I knew at a very young age the medical profession was my calling and when the phone rang, I answered.
I’m almost 6 years into my nursing career, 2 into pediatric oncology and I’m starting to fully understand why my dad was so willing to share stories. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that in order to fully be able to maintain your mental health, you need to talk about what you see at work and what can be done to help make the “not normal” easier.
There is NOTHING normal about being a pediatric oncology nurse. What I see on a daily basis is not normal. It is not normal to prime tubing, place a biohazard label on the tubing, dress up in a blue gown and gloves careful not to touch the chemo because it could literally sterilize me and then go administer it into a child’s veins. It is not normal to watch a beautiful full head of hair on a child fall out clump by clump knowing there’s nothing you can do to stop it. There’s nothing normal about sending home a child to hospice care with 1 week left to live. So we talk about it, because it helps us continue to provide the best care to our patients and gives us strength to continue to stand in the battle. And if you love someone in the field, it’s important to listen.
Too many times to count I’ve had people tell me they can’t hear about what I do. That it’s just too sad… it’s too hard… they have kids of their own “can’t ever imagine”, thank you for what you do, but please don’t talk to me about it (in much nicer terms of course).
Childhood cancer research only receives 4% of ALL research funding. F-O-U-R percent. A lot of what I see at work is because the research isn’t there. The doctors, the nurses, the research nurses, we do the best we can with what we have, but we need more. “Worldwide, 300,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year. And in the U.S., more children die of childhood cancer than any other disease. In the last 20 years, only four new drugs have been approved that were specifically developed to treat children with cancer.” (St. Baldricks Foundation)
I refuse to let someone else’s comfortability be protected at the expense of a child needing help. I talk about it so I can keep fighting it at full strength. I talk about it so you know the HELL these kids and parents go through so you might be sparked to help make a change. I talk about it because they NEED more funding so the “not normal” can end. I talk about it because I REFUSE to let a child’s death go in vain. I talk about it because you won’t.
My coworkers, parents of childhood cancer patients and I are standing on the front lines, but we need other soldiers to listen and start their own conversation.
These kids are the STRONGEST, BRAVEST, HAPPIEST, SMARTEST people I’ve ever met and they DESERVE conversation. Listen. Listen to the parents, the nurses and the physicians, we desperately need your attention to make a difference.