Monday, 4 December 2017

Oncology and what I learnt as a vet nurse

Recently my eyes have been well and truly opened to the world that is Oncology.




Prior to this, I had a sketchy knowledge and experience of oncology, I mean most general practice nurses have encountered say Vincristine or invasive lump removals etc. But I really found my knowledge was limited to 'Oh bugger it has Mets in its chest' - outcome Euthanasia. To an occasional purple topped Cytoxic sharps bin, to the grading of cancerous lumps. What I'm getting at is, we refer these cases, it's as basic as that. We refer them because there's is someone more specialised than us to deal with them, and let's face it.... it's never a great outcome right!?

First things first my attitude towards cancer has now changed dramatically, although some things remain - yes most patients do die and yes everything has cancer. But what's changed has my knowledge of the different types, the treatment regimes and the fact that some pets have such a huge response to treatment and it really can prolong their life.
I was in a very lucky position when I got the opportunity to take on a temporary role in an oncology department recently. It gave me an insight into this world that I hadn't previously ventured and more importantly I learnt loads :).

Oncology isn't as I naively thought just about Chemotherapy. I got to experience Radiotherapy and the use of a Linear Accelerator, one of only approx 5 in the country that currently treat your pets and delivers high energy x-rays (electrons) to a tumour. I got to see the immense amount of planning involved in these Radiotherapy treatment plans including planning CT and mapping out of a tumour.






From a nursing point of view, I learnt how specialised this role can be, how sometimes isolating it is away from the other departments. But overriding all of this I loved how much difference you can make to the clients and their pets. Sometimes these cats and dogs are coming into the department 2/3 times a week, or sometimes staying in as inpatients and you can build a real rapport with them. I gained loads of favourite patients :). These clients will normally do anything for their pet and are obviously very invested, which can lead to higher emotions that normally experienced in general practice and they are very heavily involved in the planning of treatments. They are also some of the loveliest clients I've met :)

Chemotherapy regimes was another area I gained knowledge in, all the different drugs available. Health and Safety and the handling of these drugs and the strict protocols. I was surprised at how well most animals tolerate these drugs and how calm the majority of them are when having to sit on my lap for 20mins whilst we slowly infuse them into their cephalic vein.

12 years I have been nursing for now, but I love that in this career you can still learn loads and change your attitude overnight. I learnt loads and would highly recommend going on rotations like these if you can get them to help keep your knowledge up to date or just gain completely new experiences. Now back in general practice I feel better armed and not as dismissive when it comes to cancer.



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