If you follow my blogs, my website or my social media, you know that I’m a full time pediatric oncology nurse with a heart wide open. I say full time not only because I’m at my place of employment 40 hours a week, but because my job doesn’t just affect me between the hours of 0645am-730pm. My job affects my heart full time.
Recently, I was asked “what’s it like taking care of kids with cancer?” and my immediate response was “hard, but rewarding.” The person in front of me looked at me like I had 10 heads… “rewarding? What could possibly be rewarding about seeing a child with cancer?” You see, I don’t walk into my job like I’m taking care of kids with cancer. I walk into my job with a heart wide open ready to hang out with the most amazing kids for 12 hours. Sure, they have cancer… but cancer is not who they are. Rewarding? Yes. Rewarding. I get to see amazing kids fight through things I’m not even sure I could get through myself. I get to see my coworkers leave behind their personal lives and mold themselves into who their patients need them to be. I get to see grown adult doctors dress up in clown outfits, put a sharks head on, listen to an 8 year old sing and pretend it’s the best thing they’ve ever heard and escape the reality that is cancer. Hard? Yes. Hard. I see cancer steal joy, a childhood that was just beginning, a family torn apart, fear in it’s worst form and death that knocks on door steps.
How can you have a heart wide open for a job that can be so grim?
Because I’m not a robot. Pediatric oncology never has been and I pray it never will be, just a job. If I cannot go into work with love in my heart and a sense of HOPE for the future, I wouldn’t survive. The connections with families, being a part of transplant days, end of chemo parties, being with a patient on their last days… you cannot do all of that without a heart wide open.
A lot of medical professionals will tell you the opposite. That work and personal life have to be separate. That you have to go into the job expecting the worst, hoping for the best and knowing that death is a part of the job. That’s not me. Death is an exception to me. If you tell me the survival rate is 5%, I am walking in knowing that 5% is enough for me to have a heart wide open and I’ll be damned if I believe otherwise unless it happens. 5% is 5%. I’m going to love, care for and treat that child as if it were my own because I’m not scared of getting attached because they only have a 5% chance of survival. How can you go into your job keeping kids at an arms length because they may not survive? To protect your own heart, I get it. But the distance can be felt from patients and families and that doesn’t make anyone comfortable.
Nursing with a heart wide open is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Part of being a nurse with a heart wide open means to heal the hearts of my patients while they’re waiting on healing for their body.
I’ve met with, connected with and loved on so many patients and families that I’ll never forget. I couldn’t imagine going into my days with a closed heart, closed mind and a “just a job” attitude. The day I do is the day I walk away.
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