The nursing field holds many choices for those who hear its calling. From neonatal care to trauma to neurosurgery, few professions tender such a range of specialties abounding in rewards and challenges. Oncology nursing is no exception, and three of City of Hope’s finest let us in on why they chose cancer care — and what keeps them in it.
|Debbie Toomey (Photo by Alicia Di Rado)|
Debbie Toomey, R.N., P.N.P., M.S.N.
I always knew I wanted to be a nurse. When I was 13 or 14, my grandma was ill, and she moved in with us and brought along her sister, who was a nurse. And that was it — I just knew it was what I was called to do!
I was one of those people who stayed up late watching telethons raising money for kids with cancer — and before I got to nursing school, even though everyone said you should start off doing “med/surg” nursing, I wanted to go into pediatric oncology.
On tough days, knowing I can help a family get through something, whether it’s calling in meds for a child or reassuring them — that’s what keeps me going. Knowing I made it easier on them is a reward in itself.
|Mona Swinehart (Photo by p.cunningham)|
Mona Swinehart, R.N., O.C.N.
Clinical Nurse III
Cancer Information Resource Nurse
Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center
When I graduated from nursing school, my last rotation was oncology. My husband thought I should work with babies, but I wanted to continue my work with oncology patients. I saw working in this area as more than a job; I saw it as a vocation.
As a cancer resource information nurse, I feel like I can really make a difference. When people call me, they’re often going through a hard time — and I end up not only offering them clinical information, but also an understanding voice and warm shoulder over the phone.
One of the things we teach our patients here is empowerment, and we want them to know it’s their job to ask questions. I try to teach patients how to deal with the health-care system and teach them about the stages of their disease. I love talking one-on-one with patients.
|Maribel Paz (Photo by Darrin S. Joy)|
Maribel Paz, R.N.
Clinical Nurse III
Surgical Oncology – 4 West
I first started my career in oncology nursing at City of Hope because my eldest sister worked here. Just two years later, another sister of mine came to City of Hope, not as an employee but as a patient. I didn’t know if I could stay long after my sister died because every time I saw a patient suffering, I would associate those emotions with my own and what my family went through.
Since then, I’ve learned to empathize rather than sympathize with my patients and their families to give the very best that I can as an advocate and caregiver. However, there are times when my feelings get the better of me and I have to let the tears out. I believe the genuine emotion that I express is what pushes me to care for patients as though they were my own family. City of Hope is indeed life-changing, and that’s one reason I’ve stayed. It is not just a place of work; it is a second home, an extended family, and a place to heal the body, the spirit and the soul.