Last month I finally achieved a dream of mine which truthfully began in 2016.
When I first began my nursing degree in 2015, I didn’t know what area of nursing I wanted to go in to, or what type of nurse I wanted to be. All I wanted to do was to help people. I figured I had 3 years to decide & at the time my goal was just to get through the degree & qualify!
My first clinical placement in my second year was on a gynaecology ward, where the majority of patients being admitted were for surgical procedures & investigations, miscarriages, hyperemesis gravidarum, & gynecologic oncology complications.
I’ll never forget one patient in particular who had just been diagnosed with ovarian cancer which had already progressed to stage 3.
Despite being so unwell & dealing with a difficult diagnosis she was always so kind to all the staff & other patients. I spent a lot of time providing care for her as her nursing needs were quite complex, & I got to know her & her family really well. At the time cancer to me was something I didn’t know much about or have much experience of. But I knew it was the one thing most people are terrified of…..as to them cancer was a death sentence. My patient ended up being transferred to another hospital for treatment & although I knew her prognosis was very poor at the time I always wondered what happened to her.
Whilst on the ward I was lucky enough to spend a day working with the gynaecology clinical nurse specialist who was incredibly compassionate, skilled & seemed to know everything! I also spent some time at the chemotherapy day unit & realised that despite cancer being this huge scary thing….I was fascinated by it. Seeing the different journeys that patients take from symptoms to diagnosis to treatment, all the different teams and healthcare professionals involved in the process, the treatments & clinical trials & improvements always being made, the finance & research involved….it was like a fire had been lit inside me which refused to be put out.
I discussed everything I learnt with my personal tutor whose actual nursing background was oncology. She was pleased to see that I had found the one area of nursing I was truly passionate about, but she spent the next 2 years telling me not to go straight into oncology when I qualified! She warned me how challenging it was & advised it would be better if I did general medical ward nursing first, to gain experience & find my feet before specialising in oncology.
She was right, but I still couldn’t put that fire out.
I wanted to learn & know everything about oncology. I wanted to be one of the nurses I had watched at the day unit, listening to & reassuring their patients undergoing their first chemotherapy treatment. Seeing those patients who had walked in terrified but left laughing & joking I thought……“I would LOVE to do that job!”
So I ignored everyone’s advice & applied for & succeeded in getting a newly qualified post on an acute oncology/haematology ward. 2 years later & I’m still on the same ward & I still love it. Of course it has been challenging & yes I struggled a lot in the beginning. But my passion for it kept me going during the hard times. I learnt not to rush to achieve all the additional skills like blood transfusions & IV’s, but to ensure I was experienced enough to be competent and proficient when finally undergoing the training.
There was still one big final goal which at times I thought I was never going to learn enough to achieve.
To be able to give patients chemotherapy & help their fight against cancer. It took a lot of studying & even though I’ve only scratched the surface learning about chemotherapy & the many forms it takes……I can finally say I am a chemo competent nurse!
So always follow your dream, despite what people say, despite how long it takes, despite all the setbacks & times you quit. Keep Going. Find what lights you up inside & follow it. It will carry you through the hard times & push you on when you want to give up. If you don’t know what your fire is yet, don’t worry. Just keep learning, keep exploring all areas….you will find it.
Oh & my ovarian cancer patient who I first met & cared for in 2016? I bumped into her on my ward when she came in for treatment last year. She remembered me as a student nurse & hugged me, & I was so glad I got to see her again & see how well she was that I cried afterwards in the toilet.
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