Wednesday, May 09, 2012
More than 20 years ago I was a single mother with two children and a house payment. At the time I was working as waitress, which I loved, but it did not provide my family with financial security or health insurance. So I rode my bike to nearby Villa Maria College and met with an admissions counselor. My first question was about a degree that would assure me a job. Being in food service, I worked with a lot of people who had college degrees but were unable to find jobs in their field of study. I did not have the time, energy, or money to spend years getting a degree only to find myself waitressing again.
After listening to my concerns the admissions counselor answered, “Be a nurse. You will always have a job.” This sounded good to me. Even though I had never thought about being a nurse, this seemed to be the answer to my problem. My focus at the time was to get in, get out and get working at a job with benefits. I enrolled and graduated two years later with an associate degree in nursing.
Then I was off to work at a job with a steady paycheck and health insurance. This was great and I had accomplished my goal. I also discovered that I loved being a nurse and the bonus was that every day I had an opportunity to make a difference.
My first nursing job was in cardiology and then I moved to home care. After a few years I became a hospice nurse, which was where I needed to be. I loved being a hospice nurse and became passionate about a good end-of-life experience for everyone. I believe in the hospice philosophy of living as well as you can for as long as you can. Isn’t this what everyone wants?
After 10 great years, I left hospice to become the palliative care coordinator at The Regional Cancer Center. I had learned so much during my time as a hospice nurse and hoped that I could use my skills and knowledge to help cancer patients maintain their quality of life while facing a life-threatening disease. While working with cancer patients and caregivers can be challenging and emotionally draining, it can also be rewarding. Cancer is a heartbreaking word and a life changing event for patients, their families and caregivers. Much can be done to address pain and suffering throughout the cancer journey if we take the time to listen.
As a palliative care nurse I provide symptom management and extra support to patients and caregivers. Patients who have their needs met have fewer psychosocial issues, such as depression, stress and worry, and are more likely to complete their cancer treatments. This allows patients with a life-threatening disease to live as well as they can for as long as possible.