WHO Year of the Nurse – de Souza Nightingale Series – Stephanie Ouellette
- Looking at all your accomplishments throughout your career, if you could go back in time what advice would you give to yourself after your first year on the job?
- A career in nursing is diverse and nurses touch the lives of many including patients, family members and their peers within the interprofessional team. Is there an interaction that has been most memorable to you or what is the most rewarding part of your job?
- They say that a picture is worth a thousand words. Share with us a picture that you feel best depicts your profession, your team or your work environment and tell us why that picture is meaningful to you.
I would tell myself that the “sky is the limit”! Nursing is so diverse and there are many paths a new nurse can choose to go down. I would say, don’t be afraid to experience these different areas of nursing. Ask to shadow for a day in the chemotherapy day care unit. Its only by experiencing different areas that you can then choose the one area that truly calls to your heart. Once you have chosen your type of nursing then become an expert in that field. It took me almost half of my career to learn this, but it was worth the wait because I absolutely love Oncology Nursing!
Another important piece of advice I would give to new nurses, is to realize we are all leaders. I used to think only managers or nursing supervisors were leaders but after becoming specialized in Oncology I found I am a leader too. I can mentor new nurses, I can advocate for better patient care, I can make recommendations for a safer working environment, and I can encourage others to continue their specialty nursing education. Being excited and proud of what you do can cause others to join in!
I have had many memorable interactions with my patients over the years, but there is one patient that will always be close to my heart. I had been taking care of Tom (not his real name) for many months in the chemo unit. Tom had metastatic colon cancer and was having chemotherapy every two weeks. Every time Tom would come in for a visit, I would learn more about his life. I learned that Tom had a great love for golf, he was happily married for over 50 years, his family had called him “Bunny” ever since he was a young boy because he was always “on the move”. Tom was retired from the army and had been stationed in many places around the world during his service. His army stories were quite vivid and exciting to hear. We found a shared love for traveling and we would spend hours taking about the places we had traveled to or places we would love to go to. Tom was a trooper when it came to his chemotherapy treatments. He never complained about side effects, but you could tell that he was becoming tired with having to come in for treatments. He would say that his cancer was interfering with his golf game! Tom gave a good fight against his cancer, but he passed away two years after we had first met. His wife came in to visit the staff after his passing and told us that having such a comradery with the chemo nurses helped Tom get through his treatments. I would say to Tom, that meeting him and learning about his life helped me become a better nurse. Sometimes being a good listener is the best medicine we can provide as nurses.
I took this picture while out hiking in the summer of 2018. It reminds me of when I first began working in Oncology. The learning curve is like hiking straight up the side of a mountain and while there were many times I felt like quitting and turning back around, I persevered to the top. What a reward and view once you reach the top of that mountain! I tell many new nurses who come into this specialty, to not give up during their training, because once you get up and over that mountain, it’s only then do you realize your accomplishments.