Features

Oncology role comes with a burden unique to nursing

Speaking at the inaugural Cancer Nursing Practice conference in Manchester, Cathy Heaven discusses the intensity cancer nurses face with their patients.

Speaking at the inaugural Cancer Nursing Practice conference in Manchester, Cathy Heaven discusses the intensity cancer nurses can face with their patients

Recognising the signs of and coping with stress is especially important for cancer nurses who find themselves subjected to intense emotions on a daily basis. The Christie School of Oncology, associate director of education Cathy Heaven acknowledged the role came with a burden which is almost unique in the profession.

She said: As cancer nurses, every single patient we care for faces the most difficult, life-changing, situation they are likely to ever face.

This brings an incredible intensity to their the nurses role as it is very difficult to engage with patients without becoming emotionally involved as well.

We put pressure on ourselves to know what to do, we are the patients safety-net,

...

Speaking at the inaugural Cancer Nursing Practice conference in Manchester, Cathy Heaven discusses the intensity cancer nurses can face with their patients


Cathy Heaven. Picture: Neil O'Connor

Recognising the signs of – and coping with – stress is especially important for cancer nurses who find themselves subjected to intense emotions on a daily basis. The Christie School of Oncology, associate director of education Cathy Heaven acknowledged the role came with a ‘burden’ which is almost unique in the profession.

She said: ‘As cancer nurses, every single patient we care for faces the most difficult, life-changing, situation they are likely to ever face.

‘This brings an incredible intensity to their the nurses role as it is very difficult to engage with patients without becoming emotionally involved as well.

‘We put pressure on ourselves to know what to do, we are the patients’ safety-net, but if we do not take care of ourselves as a workforce, we will not be here to take care of patients.

‘Sometimes we have to be able to say "we can’t always fix the problem", but the pressure not to do that is huge.’

Dr Heaven referred to the RCN’s analysis of the 2016 NHS Staff Survey, which showed:

  • 47% believed there are not enough staff to perform all the necessary jobs
  • 59% were working unpaid overtime
  • 36.7% admitted feeling unwell due to work-place stress.

She added: ‘It is important to recognise the signs of stress and take action to reduce it wherever possible.

‘One minute that we spend taking care of ourselves, could equal an hour we are able to take care of patients.’

Dr Heaven listed signs of stress including:

  • emotional effects – such as depression, anxiety and short temper
  • physical effects – such as aches and pains, digestive problems, problems sleeping and headaches.
  • behavioural changes – such as eating more than usual, sleeping too much, and smoking and taking illegal drugs.

She concluded: ‘The question of what can we do about stress is hard, but it is important to seek the support of your colleagues, re-evaluate your expectations of self and recharge yourself as often as possible.’


Read more on the CNP conference

Want to read more?

Subscribe for unlimited access

Enjoy 1 month's access for £1 and get:

  • Full access to cancernursingpractice.com
  • Bi-monthly digital edition
  • RCNi Portfolio and interactive CPD quizzes
  • RCNi Learning with 200+ evidence-based modules
  • 10 articles a month from any other RCNi journal

This article is not available as part of an institutional subscription. Why is this?

Jobs