Oncology nurses at New England Cancer Specialists (NECS) have something in common, beyond their high levels of expertise: They are all passionate about taking care of oncology patients.

This passion enables them to deal with patients in every situation with care, compassion and commitment. And we at NECS, in turn, are passionate about our nurses: We thank you, appreciate you and recognize your amazing work!

Throughout our four NECS locations, throughout the year, our nurses demonstrate innovation, inspiration and influence. Following is a recent experience of one NECS oncology nurse, Jennifer Turcotte, that exemplifies our nurses’  passionate approach.

Sitting across from me are two nursing students from Connecticut who have come to visit during spring break. I treasure talking with nursing students, but I have yet to meet one who tells me that he or she wants to go into oncology nursing at the outset. I often hear students say they want to go into maternity, pediatrics or emergency room nursing. I often hear, “there is no way I could do what you do.” I smile while listening to them share their nursing school experience, and I wait.

When they finish telling me their dreams for their nursing futures, I ask: “Can I give you my speech on why you should become an oncology nurse?” They nod politely.

I begin. “Oncology nurses have the best jobs in the field.” Their faces show skepticism.

I continue. “Cancer crosses all boundaries, all races, all ages, all religions, all politics. It places all humanity on the same page. Because oncology patients often have other health issues besides cancer, the oncology nurse also becomes a mini-expert in many areas of nursing. You will not find this in any other area of nursing.

“Oncology patients are the best patients in the world. They are kind and appreciate all you do for them. They become part of your clinic family. They often corner you for a hug, stop you in the hall, tell you that what you do makes a huge difference in their lives.

“They have been known to chase you down a grocery store aisle, call out your name, and express their appreciation while you pretend not to know them, so as not to breach HIPAA (privacy) law.”

The two nursing students are captivated, listening intently as I go on. “If all this were not enough, oncology nurses work with leading-edge, innovative technology and medicine. When a new FDA drug is approved, we are using it on patients within days.

“We have patients on the latest research protocols. We infuse chemotherapy, biotherapy, immunotherapy. We work with genetics and precision medicine. We are constantly learning and using the latest technology to help patients have the best possible outcome.

“It is thrilling to work in a field that is changing so rapidly, that can improve patients’ quality of life almost daily.”

At NECS, we get to do all of this while offering patients affordable, top-quality care, and working in a private, physician-owned practice. Because NECS is a member of the Dana Farber Cancer Care Collaborative, our work is enriched by sharing experiences with another major cancer treatment facility.”

The two nursing students now view oncology nursing in a whole different light, which is my goal: To influence and inspire the next generation of nurses to consider working in oncology, to join the incredible, awe-inspiring nurses who do this work every day.

Even if the students do not choose oncology nursing, I want them to find a field of nursing they are passionate about, because passion is essential to becoming a great nurse.

I work with passionate nurses each day at NECS, and I salute them this National Nurses Week – and every week – for the care, compassion and commitment they show our patients. And I thank all the Maine nurses who are working around the clock to care for all patients, in all our communities.

Jennifer Turcotte, RN, BSN, OCN, is an Oncology Nurse at New England Cancer Specialists.

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