Cancer Nurse Practitioner (CNP) Carmel O’Kane, says the appeal of her work, is the tangible assistance and help she can offer those who are living with cancer.
“It’s not a nice time in anybody’s life,” Carmel, who has worked in oncology for over 25 years and is the current president of the Cancer Nurses Society of Australian (CNSA), explains.
“It is just such an honour to be part of that … if we can make it a wee bit better, then that’s worthwhile.”
Based in a rural Day Oncology, part of Carmel’s role is to provide support to the broader health community as well as within the unit.
Carmel says working in her position she finds every day is different.
“You get to do different things for different people… Some days are amazing, some days are hard as hell.”
Carmel’s work often means she is administering treatment to those at various stages of their cancer journey, ranging from adjuvant treatments for those in recovery to treatments that aim to reduce pain and morbidity for those with severe symptoms or a short-term prognosis.
As a Nurse Practitioner Carmel can also prescribe drugs and offer radiological treatments, allowing her to practice at a larger scope and offer a full “continuum of care” for her patients.
Carmel also provides mentorship to other nurses within her unit, adding that she hopes some will also follow in her footsteps towards a more expanded nursing practice.
“I support my nurses to provide that care, and hopefully to bring them along on so as to further their experience, and get them wanting to do more and learn more, because there’s nothing better than being able to care fully for your patient,” she says.
While the speciality has its rewards Carmel, she says one of the biggest challenges, especially for less experienced nurses, is caring for patients with cancer is being frequently exposure to death and other painful experiences.
“That can be quite scary for young nurses coming in, I think,” she says.
“Understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing is really important in all nursing, and knowing that sad and bad things happen,” Carmel advises about dealing with challenging situations.
Carmel also believes in the value of her work and what it can offer people living with cancer.
“If you can’t see a positive side to what you do every day you can’t do this kind of job,“ Carmel says of the day-to-day obstacles associated with her work.
“Getting rid of challenges for patients is what makes it so rewarding.”
For more information on Cancer Nursing, readers are encouraged look at the work of the CNSA here.