By Diane Sincavage, RN, OCN, CCRN
They call us older nurses “seasoned.” During my 35 years in the profession, I have worked in staff and clinical coordinator roles in medical, surgical and neuro adult critical care and have served on various nursing committees. When the hospital where I was working was heading toward closure, I moved to Philadelphia, where my children lived and where there were many hospitals from which I could choose.
Who wouldn’t want me with all of my experience? Within six months, I had applied for every job that appeared online and didn’t hear back from anyone. It felt like no one wanted me.
A position at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America appeared online, and after phone conversations and interviews, I was offered a night position on a med/surg unit. I knew I needed to begin learning about oncology. I passed the chemo-biology course and offered to give chemotherapy whenever I could. I kept studying and realized that no two patients with cancer are the same. They might have the same treatment protocols but each reacts quite differently. I also realized I needed to take one patient and family at a time.
In about a year I transferred to the ICU. That’s where I met Stephanie, one of the smartest people I know. She suggested we take the Oncology Nursing Certification exam. Back to studying again. I took every online Oncology Nursing Society class including the OCN review course, and I passed the OCN exam. It felt good — no, it felt great!
Soon after, our educator informed me the facility was opening a stem cell transplant unit. When she asked if I would be interested in being part of the staff training program, I jumped at the opportunity. I participated in the facility’s series of classes, visited the CTCA Chicago transplant unit for a few days and took an online bone marrow transplant course. I began working on the unit as soon as it opened.
I’ve been there for 1 1/2 years now. I am amazed at the chemotherapy we give our patients, and how they are so sick one day and then able to walk a mile a day around the unit soon after. We love our patients and they love us. There always is something new to learn and it’s fun. I am proud to say I teach a class on the caring for oncology patients that we offer to our new nurses.
So today I am an oncology nurse. Often our professional journeys are long ones — mine has been more than 40 years. And I’ve never regretted any of the decisions I made to change roles, positions or facilities.
There are so many opportunities if you look for them. It may mean starting over in a new specialty and being that “new nurse” again. But please realize you always learn so much more and become a better nurse for it. I’m not afraid to ask younger nurses I work with for help and I’m always willing to share what I know. And that’s what our journey is all about, whether you’re fresh out of school or a seasoned nurse.
Diane Sincavage, RN, OCN, CCRN, is a staff nurse on the stem cell transplant unit at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, Philadelphia.
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