Mar 01, 2020 8:00 AM


Left to right: Mary-Jean (Gigi) Austria, MS, RN, OCN, Jared Wright, BSN, RN, and Nicole Ward BSN, RN, OCN
Left to right: Mary-Jean (Gigi) Austria, MS, RN, OCN, Jared Wright, BSN, RN, and Nicole Ward BSN, RN, OCN

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I was recently at a nurse recruitment fair talking to eager new graduates looking for the “right” specialty to begin their careers: the ICU, ER, labor and delivery? I told them I’ve stayed in oncology for my entire career—28 years. They crowded around my table, firing questions: How is cancer nursing unique? Are there opportunities for growth? Why have you stayed in oncology so long?

I answered them all at once: The connections you develop with oncology patients—that’s what’s unique. Cancer forces patients to stare their mortality and vulnerability in the face. In caring for them, I have developed gratitude and humility. Now that I am a nurse educator, I no longer work directly with patients. But when I did, I found opportunities to cultivate patience and compassion with every patient. I welcomed the opportunity to explain side effects, control symptoms, provide advocacy, and coordinate care.

I welcomed the opportunities to celebrate with them when receiving good news, and I embraced the opportunities to cry beside them through cancer recurrence, pain, and loss. Patients returned to us month after month, and I became part of their story. Together we strived to preserve life, dignity, and hope. My patients—they are precisely why I stayed.

Gigi Austria, MS, RN, OCN
Nurse Manager,
Clinical Staff Education

Learn more at huntsmancancer.org/nursing

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