Nurses are Angels, we all know that. They have the hardest of jobs and I often think that those working in a cancer centre have one of the hardest, emotionally. It must be all-too easy for them to get personally involved, yet they don’t get to see the results of their efforts: who survives and who doesn’t. It is in the power of nurses to influence the patient’s experience of receiving treatment; even the slightest of gestures can make all the difference; a smile, a comforting touch, or just some of their hard-earned time to reassure and show empathy.
Such was the case when I arrived for what turned out to be my abortive 5th chemo cycle. My nurse sat down next to me and went through the usual list of pre-chemo questions but not in a casual ‘I do this dozens of times a day’ manner. She was professional and caring, looked me directly in the eye and clearly took note of my answers. She made me feel like an individual. So attentive, however, that the result was a postponement of my chemo, after advice from a more senior nurse. We agreed a rescheduled date and she even asked a nurse who would be working on that date to examine my eye to compare it when I returned for the chemo.
My return visit was quite different, mainly due to the different, I hesitate to say indifferent, nurse. It was the one who had been asked to check and compare my eye. Maybe she blamed me for wasting the chemo drugs the previous week, as she made a point of reminding me many times and for which I was already feeling guilty. Maybe she was just having a bad day. Maybe it’s me. You could have cut the atmosphere with a blunt scalpel as she, very efficiently but silently, attached the canula, tubes and drugs bag. It was the first time I’ve felt so awkward during all my treatments. It’s a shame as I could do without the added stress and also a shame that I didn’t get the chance to try and remedy the situation but our time together was cut short as she swapped with another nurse, who effortlessly restored the familiar, friendly atmosphere.
What a difference a nurse makes. Yes, they are all Angels; they make us proud and yet, in the words of the late Michael Hutchence of INXS – Never Tear Us Apart:
‘I told you/That we could fly/’Cause we all have wings/But some of us don’t know why.’
Happy 70th Birthday NHS. I don’t know what we’d do without you.