Do You Have What It Takes To Be A Paediatric Oncology Nurse?

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Sickly child being seen to by doctors, Tanzania.Paediatric oncology nurses are registered nurses who undergo advanced training that equips them to provide highly specialised nursing care to young children and adolescents with cancer. The role of these highly trained specialists goes beyond the scope of giving injections, inserting IV lines and administering chemotherapy and radiation therapies. As a paediatric oncology nurse you must be extremely patient, compassionate and empathetic without compromising on objectivity in this highly emotionally charged environment. You must also have excellent communication skills and be able to provide patients and their families with the knowledge and emotional support they need to cope during this challenging time.

While caring for children with cancer is a very noble intention, not everyone can handle the heartbreak of having to deal with losing their young patients. Unfortunately, at a children’s cancer hospital, this is not a rare occurrence. Take a look at some of the painful statistics concerning childhood cancer in Australia:

  • Australia has one of the highest incidences of childhood cancer worldwide
  • Every year an estimated 600 children are diagnosed with this dreadful disease before they turn 15
  • Every week at least 3 children lose their battle against cancer
  • Of the children who survive, around 90% are at high risk of developing adverse long-term effects 

Knowing that you are doing your part to improve the quality of life for children with cancer can be tremendously rewarding but the fact is it can also be physically and emotionally draining. It takes exceptional strength to stay calm and professional and make objective medical decisions especially when your patient is a young child suffering from cancer.

If your goal is to specialise in paediatric oncology nursing, there are several things you should take into consideration, from the longer training involved to the details of the job and also your personal characteristics.

Detailed Job Description Of Oncology Nursing Professionals

Some of your duties and responsibilities as a paediatric oncology nurse would include:

  • Developing personalised care plans for patients under your care
  • Documenting your patients’ response to medication and other treatments
  • Monitoring and recording the progress of your patients at regular intervals
  • Collaborating with a multidisciplinary health care team to provide all-round care
  • Providing supportive resources for patients and their families and educating them with regards to treatment protocol and expectations
  • Encouraging patients and their families to stay positive
  • Identifying and treating cancer-related health issues

Education and Training Requirements

To specialise as a paediatric oncology nurse, you must first complete a 3-year Bachelor of Nursing degree and hold an active RN (registered nurse) license. After completing the bachelor’s degree, you would then need to enrol in an advanced study programme to obtain a Graduate Diploma in Nursing Science (Oncology). These graduate diploma programmes provide advanced theoretical knowledge and skills that help prepare RNs to work with cancer patients and their families. Before enrolling in any programme, it is important to make sure that is accredited by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia (NMBA).

Because children’s bodies are still developing, caring for children with cancer is different from caring for adult cancer patients. Paediatric oncology nurses take several additional courses that teach them to basic nursing procedures to suit the requirements of their younger patients. Some of these courses include child development and psychology and paediatric CPR and life support.

A pre-nursing student with her mentor

Desirable Personality Traits In Paediatric Oncology Nurses

Undergoing treatment for cancer can be frightening and confusing for both children as well as their families. When it comes to providing your paediatric patients and their families with the care and support they need at this challenging time, you need much more than expert medical skills. Possessing the following personal characteristics is just as important:

 

 

The Ability To Balance Patience, Compassion And Objectivity. Treating children with cancer can be exceptionally challenging. How do you tell a child they have a disease that could be fatal? It requires an incredible amount of tact and fortitude to handle the situation. Telling your little patients’ families is not any easier. You need to be patient, compassionate and objective as they struggle to come to terms with the diagnosis and treatment options.   

Outstanding Oral & Written Communication Skills. As a paediatric oncology nurse, you will not be working in isolation. You will in fact be the main person in charge of liaising between the patient, the patient’s family and the multidisciplinary team that is handling the patient’s treatment. You will also need to collaborate with the patient’s doctors to determine the best treatment plans and be able to explain clearly the child’s condition, especially if there are any untoward changes. Excellent oral and written communication skills are a must to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Another thing to consider is that you would be interacting with children from various countries and cultures. Your communication skills, patience and tact all come into play as you try to keep their families informed while overcoming cultural and language barriers.

The Ability To Balance Patience, Compassion And Objectivity. Treating children with cancer can be exceptionally challenging. How do you tell a child they have a disease that could be fatal? It requires an incredible amount of tact and fortitude to handle the situation. Telling your little patients’ families is not any easier. You need to be patient, compassionate and objective as they struggle to come to terms with the diagnosis and treatment options.   

Job Outlook For Paediatric Oncology Nursing In Australia

Huge advancements that have been made in technology and medicine over the past few years have made a tremendous difference in the prognosis for paediatric cancer patients. Skilled and knowledgeable nurses specialised in paediatric oncology are the need of the hour to implement these new treatment protocols and also to continue doing research in this field. The potential for a fast growing career in this field is tremendous. 

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