An interesting challenge I’ve come across as a medical-oncology nurse is the question of just how much of my own story I should share. In my experience, many oncology nurses and oncologists have had personal encounters with cancer, which led them to this specialty in the first place. I’m certainly no exception. 

But it gets tricky sometimes. My own experiences can certainly help me demonstrate empathy and compassion on a deeply emotional level. I have more patience for anxious family members and patients who are in pain. When my dad was in the hospital (multiple times) for intractable pain and nausea, we had to fight and advocate for better care and more effective communication. My mom had to physically put herself between a PCA and a nurse who wanted to discontinue all of my dad’s pain meds until she could clarify an order. All of them – PCA, Fentanyl patch, oral meds, you name it. On a man who had bone mets everywhere. The thought still makes me shudder.

But to what extent should I disclose the source of my understanding? I’ve certainly never been asked by a patient or loved one if I went through it too – they don’t really care to hear about my story in the midst of their own (nor should they). And volunteering that my dad had the same disease with the same level of metastatic involvement, only to reveal that he passed away, would only serve to add to their angst and fear.

On the other hand, I meet patients every day who are sick and dying and haven’t come to terms with it yet. And I know how suddenly things can take a turn for the worse. We didn’t have time to say what we all wanted to say at the end. Could I maybe help a family member face reality or talk to a patient about the importance of saying “I love you”? Would they hear me better if they knew where I had been?

How do you navigate the boundaries between personal experience and nursing professionalism? Have you ever shared something personal with a patient? 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...