Every day, Nancy Brook, MSN, RN, CFNP, sees breast cancer patients in an outpatient clinic at Stanford Healthcare. She says that most of her patients have metastatic breast cancer—cancer which has traveled to a site in the body beyond the breast. Brook, who offers cancer coach training for health care professionals, spoke to us about her role as a nurse working with patients who have breast cancer.
What do you do on a daily basis?
My role includes evaluating my patients to see how they are doing since their last visit, reviewing X-rays or other studies they may have had, and providing a lot of education about their next steps and treatment. I spend a lot of time assisting patients with navigating the health care system, which can be challenging.
How long have you worked in this position and why did you choose this type of work?
I have been part of this oncology team for nearly 15 years. I chose to work with this particular patient population for several reasons: first, because I felt that I could make a big difference in their lives. Second, I recognize that there are many opportunities to counsel and coordinate care, and I really enjoy that aspect of my work. Finally, I lost both my mother and grandmother to cancer and understand how complex this care can be.
What are your greatest challenges and biggest rewards from working in this sector of the nursing field?
The biggest challenges are managing time—our patients have many questions and concerns, and it can be difficult to spend as much time as we would like with each one. Also, our patients are often scared and anxious, which requires us to spend additional time with them and to have patience.
The greatest rewards are when our patients do well; when we see them recovered from a surgery or procedure, and they are able to be active and engaged in their lives. Then, having the opportunity to celebrate with them.
What advice would you give to someone thinking of pursuing nursing in this part of the field?
I would encourage any nurse who is interested in this kind of work to talk with colleagues who are in the field. Oncology includes many subspecialties, and it is helpful to have a good understanding of what the work will be like before you make a change. To get started, a license as a registered nurse is required. Some specialties may require a certification in chemotherapy administration. As an advanced practice nurse or nurse practitioner, a master’s degree and national certification is required.
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