It was chemo day today. The whole routine which starts with anxiety the night before, mental agony of the week of side effects, lidocaine on the port, a stick , a blood draw and then wait for the results. A time span of starting at other bald women who have gone to different lengths to cover their baldness, of looking at husbands watching You Tube videos to keep themselves entertained, chatty girl friends and some anxious older women. Then finally you get seated in the chemo chair. Now its staring at others who are either getting chemo or will get it. You never know what you get this time, the nosy immigrant grandma who thinks its okay to ask your life story, the pleasant young professional or the weepy lady who is still not recovered from her diagnosis. Its as uncertain as cancer it self.
Among all this chaos and uncertainty, all a patient can rely on is care and comfort from the nursing staff and at the minimum, professionalism and understanding that this is the group of people whose lives are on hold or permanently wrecked by cancer.
This is a group of people who are trying to stay afloat in an unpredictable world filled with worries and fear. Empathy is desperately needed and emotional uplifting is very helpful.
Most patients after their pre-medications are dozing in and out of sleep. Some just want to close their eyes and some make small talk with others. Over all the set up is deserving of peace and quiet with an underpinning of hope and comfort.
I was sitting in my sub room with two other women as Halaven was dripping into my blood as I heard a loud piercing laughter. I noticed it to be one of the oncology nurses sitting barely three feet away at the laughing hysterically at the nursing station. It wasn’t just one loud laugh but a whole three minute laughter fest at a volume that would have pierced through a closed door.
I wondered about how other patients related to this lack of professionalism, since as a physician-patient it made my blood boil. How can such a thing occur in a patient care area? If I were the attending and had walked in at that moment, nothing short of a written complaint would have satisfied me.
I have great respect for nursing in general and especially oncology nurses who do a very difficult job. However certain lines must never be crossed and one for sure is unexplained loud laughter in patient care areas. Break rooms are perfect for staff to go and lighten the load that comes with their emotionally draining jobs.
Today for me, and I suspect for some other fifteen patients in that area, laughter wasn’t the best medicine but a rather toxic display of lack of empathy for all those who were receiving treatment.
Have you encountered unprofessional behavior from someone your oncology team? and if so, how did you feel and react?