Why we stay in Oncology: Lessons in patient care not taught in the classroom

Why we stay in Oncology: Lessons in patient care not taught in the classroom

stained glass

Stained glass artwork donated to the Oncology unit from a grateful family

Caregiver fatigue is no secret: it happens. The shifts are long, the work is physical, and the emotional strain can be overwhelming. Despite this, nurses and patient care technicians come back day after day, providing exemplary care, and giving of themselves. The Oncology staff has the honor and privilege of working with a patient population that teaches us lessons in life on a daily basis. Our patients come to the hospital for treatment and care, and somehow manage to give more than they take.

The challenge lies in the times when our staff grows close to a patient and their family. We walk with them in their journey, share in the ups and downs of their treatment, and partake in the grief of their loss in the end. Our staff also experiences the joy and triumph with our patients as they discover that their surgery was a success and they are cancer free; or the immense relief they feel as they complete their final chemotherapy treatment. We witness our patients being given a new lease on life.

So, one might ask: What keeps our staff coming back? Cheryl Jasper, PCT II, says it best:

“I came to work in oncology because of lessons I have learned about patient care not taught in a classroom or textbook. The oncology unit has compassionate nurses and patient care technicians, skilled in delivering reassurance and care to our patients and their families that some never forget. Caring for a loved one and losing a family member is very difficult. Our staff do all they can to help during this time. I have observed a nurse hold a patients’ hand while she sobbed after just learning her cancer had spread with no treatment options. The nurse provided the patient with the ability to react, verbally express her grief with dignity and was able to answer questions. A group of nurses, including the oncology supervisors, assisted a family with saying goodbye to a young mother. They helped her children spend time with their mother. That was something I will never forget. I assisted a patient diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer and listened to him voice his concerns, fears, and worries. He cried and was able to talk to his family calmly when they came in. He thanked me and said he could’ve never told his family about his diagnosis otherwise. These are lessons in patient care not taught in a book or classroom.”

– Katherine King, RN, MS, OCN


  1. Posted by Lorraine Antel, at Reply

    Oncology nurses and techs are just beautiful people.I have worked there on a few occasions and have left feeling so grateful to have been offered the oppurtunity to meet these great people and their inspirational patients.

  2. Posted by carol Namo, at Reply

    Cheryl, thank you for sharing. It just reminds me more of why I am here. You are right. We do learn so much from our patients and their families. Thank you for being there for them. Thank you for being part of us. We are truly blessed to have you on our team.

  3. Posted by Lizaida Rivas, at Reply

    This article depicted the true meaning of what Oncology nurses’ face on a daily basis; it’s the small things that make a big difference in a patient’s life. Thanks for sharing this thought!

  4. Posted by Charlotte Wallace, at Reply

    Thank you for sharing your gift with so many.

  5. Posted by Ann Marie Pessagno, at Reply

    The lessons that I learned from my patients, families and the staff that worked side by side with me in the oncology world forever shaped me. This is a true calling as well as a privilege to journey and advocate for these patients. The lasting friendships I have and the stories that I carry are just precious and sacred. Thanks for reminding us how meaningful and special this work is!

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