Meet a nurse
What does a nurse do for children with cancer?
Throughout their experience with childhood cancer, whānau will cross paths with many healthcare professionals who are there to help in different areas. In the October 2022 issue of Sharing magazine, we introduced Jordana Alonso, a nurse at the Children’s Haematology Oncology Centre (CHOC) at Christchurch Hospital.
Jordana’s nursing career began six years ago at Mercy Hospice in Auckland, after which she spent a couple years in adult’s oncology in Christchurch. Upon moving to CHOC in early 2020, Jordana discovered a love of paediatric oncology nursing and hasn’t looked back!
Keep reading to find out more about what a nurse does on a paediatric oncology ward.
What made you want to be a nurse?
My mum will take credit for this one! When I was a teenager not knowing my way in the world, she said nursing would be a great career. Mum herself is a fourth generation nurse, so it’s in the blood.
- How would you describe your job to someone who doesn’t know what a paediatric oncology nurse does?
A lot of people may find this surprising, but it’s actually a lot of fun! How many jobs involve blowing bubbles, growling dinosaurs and singing Disney songs?
Being a paediatric oncology nurse is the perfect combination of head and heart. It’s knowing how to handle a life-threatening emergency and a toddler throwing a steroid-fuelled tantrum, and assessing whether you’re energetic and light-hearted for this family or more serious and direct. You adapt yourself to every room you walk into, and be whatever the family needs you to be.
- What does a typical week look like in your job?
Every eight hours of the day is different! Mornings are more task-oriented, where most of the chemotherapy happens, as well as blood transfusions, dressing changes and surgical procedures. Afternoons are more patient-centred, where you still have tasks to do but you have more time for conversations with parents and fun with the kids. Nights definitely don’t mean less work – antibiotics and pain relief wait for no one!
What fuels your passion for your work?
Honestly, all of it. Skill-wise, how great it feels to succeed on a hard task like putting in a feeding tube on an infamously wriggly child. Mentally, how great it feels to solve a complicated medication issue. Emotionally, how great it feels to make a parent or kid laugh on a tough day. Ultimately, even if it’s a bad day, you always walk out feeling like you’ve contributed some good to the world.
- What is the most challenging part of your job?
I think it’s that multiple parts of you are impacted. It’s mentally tough juggling tasks and solving problems all day. It’s physically draining rushing from one patient to another, sometimes going 8-12 hours without eating, drinking or going to the bathroom. It’s emotionally taxing seeing little kids and their parents in physical and emotional pain. Finally, it hits you spiritually. You often wonder why such awful things happen to such kind people.
- How do you maintain a good work/life balance?
The lesson I’ve learned is that you have to put life into every day. It’s very easy to succumb to the exhaustion and do nothing. All that achieves, however, is feeling like all you do is work and that all the world has cancer. You have to say yes to the aspects of life that bring you joy. That’s what keeps you balanced.
- In what ways has your job changed your perspective on life and health?
Think of all the cheesiest life clichés – my answer is all of them. How precious life is, how lucky we are just to have a healthy body, how to never take the people you love for granted. Working in oncology, you get a daily reminder of these clichés. It’s a very privileged position to be in, supporting families through this time in their lives. Our families may not know it, but they have just as significant an impact on us as we do on them.
Read more stories like this in our latest issue of Sharing magazine.
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