A day in the shoes of Inge, Senior Oncology Nurse
“I absolutely adore every day in the job and there is always a small victory to be had somewhere.” – Inge Breathnach
In this edition of ‘A day in the shoes of…’ series, we meet our lovely Senior Oncology Nurse, Inge…
I begin my day by checking our appointment schedule to see who will be visiting us. I then take a look through each patient’s clinical history, test results, and preferences in preparation for their arrival. Our patients who have cancer tend to be in their old age, so they often have other health conditions. It is important that we know information about these health conditions as it can affect the treatment we provide. It is also really helpful for me to know whether the patient has any particular preferences, for example with the way they are handled or the food they eat, so we can make their appointment as stress-free as possible.
I then head downstairs to prepare the treatment rooms, and make sure we have all the equipment and drugs we need to hand. I prepare each patient’s treatment tray, which contains everything they need for their visit. I also check we have lots of tasty treats in stock to keep our patients happy.
I really enjoy building a bond with carers and patients. Often when they visit for their first appointment they are, naturally, apprehensive and anxious. As we see many of our patients and their families on a weekly basis, we build a strong bond with them, and get to know them very well. Some of our patients even pull on their leads to come into the hospital because they know they will receive treats and cuddles!
I work closely with our Oncologist, Stefano, and together we see patients for different types of appointments. Our days tend to include a mix of initial appointments and chemotherapy treatments. Initial appointments are when we perform diagnostic tests to better understand the type of cancer the patient has. For these appointments, the patient may stay with us for the day as we take images of the affected area of the body, perform blood tests, and take other samples. For those patients undergoing chemotherapy, we see them regularly to administer their treatment and perform a check-up. For every patient we see, Stefano and I discuss their needs and prepare an individualised treatment plan, and adapt as necessary throughout their journey with us.
I am passionate about providing the highest level of care to my patients and their families. I often think “what I would wish for if they were my own pet?”. I’d want to know all of the available options to help keep my pet living a good quality life. This motivates me to do my best, and when I see a happy cat or a dog who is pulling at the door to come see us it makes everything worth it.
Even though some people may assume Oncology is a sad service to work in, there are happy moments. Both Stefano and I enjoy fussing over our patients, playing with them and giving them lots of delicious treats.
A big part of my role involves looking after the family as well as the patient themselves. A diagnosis of cancer can be a very scary time for all involved. I speak frequently with our patient’s carers and provide support where needed. I also send photos of our patients on to their families to provide reassurance, as many families worry about their pet when they are away from home. It’s these so-called ‘little things’ that I believe makes a big difference to our patients and their families. That’s why I take the time to review our patient’s handling and food preferences, to send photos to carers whilst their pets are in the hospital, and regularly check-in with those families who need a helping hand or some comforting words.
The toughest part of my role is the inevitable: when a patient passes away. During these times, I find some comfort in the additional time and happiness the patient has had with their family because of our care.
Working with so many like-minded colleagues plays a big part in why I enjoy my job. There’s always someone to have a laugh with, to chat about the loss of a patient with, or to ask for help or advice from. I also learn so much from the different team members every day!
Oncology is a diverse service to work in; no patient responds the same way to treatment, so you learn an awful lot and there is huge job satisfaction to be had. I absolutely adore every day in the job and there is always a small victory to be had somewhere. For anyone wishing to pursue a role in Oncology, I would recommend gaining experience in general practice first. This gives you a really good grounding in nursing a variety of patients and understanding their care needs. It’s also important that you enjoy working with people. As an Oncology Nurse, you see and talk to families as much as your colleagues!
Thank you for reading our latest blog. If you can’t wait for the next instalment of our “A day in the shoes of…” series, you can meet the rest of our team here.