The Cancer Patient’s Sibling and the Pediatric Oncology Nurse

child with cancer“Each time my younger sister cries for the pain she feels, it felt like there’s a blade slicing my heart. I would go to the comfort room and tears uncontrollably fall from my eyes because I cannot bear seeing my little sister suffer from the intense pain brought about by the untamed effects of cancer.”

~ Oliver~

The quality of life of terminally ill pediatric patients with cancer and their parents’ coping have been studied and understood for many years now. However, very little focus is given on the responses of the healthy siblings who are often referred to as the forgotten grievers. According to Lt. Col. John S. Murray of the University of Texas in his research on The Lived Experience of Childhood Cancer: One Sibling’s Perspective, siblings have been identified as the most emotionally neglected and unhappy of all family members during serious childhood illnesses.

Today, there is a growing awareness that the psychosocial needs of siblings of children with cancer are less adequately met than those of other family members. Research suggests that siblings are particularly vulnerable to adjustment difficulties (depression, anger, anxiety, feelings of guilt, and social isolation), and they experience similar stress to that of the ill child, according to Murray (1998).

The ill child who has cancer is not the only one who needs attention and care from the health professional. The ill effects and the impact of cancer to the family members, most especially to that of the healthy siblings must be explored. This way, proper interventions can be provided to the well siblings and prevent further negative outcomes among them.

For the pediatric oncology nurses, have you actually considered your cancer patient’s siblings who are also children needing proper nursing interventions? What can you include in the plan of care so that your cancer patient’s siblings who are also children, can be provided with adequate support from the family and the health care team? If you are interested in pursuing a career in pediatric oncology, do you know the responsibilities of a pediatric oncology nurse? What are the core requirements?

What are the responsibilities of a Pediatric Oncology Nurse?

A Pediatric oncology nurse provides care for children who have cancer. Caring for children with cancer is truly technically and emotionally challenging. Nurses in this field deal with children and adolescents who are hurting and may be dying. Pediatric oncology nurses must be skilful in reassuring and educating families, be able to balance their personal concerns against their professional role in an emotionally challenging situation, and keep up with the dynamic nursing practice and nursing care.

Pediatric oncology nurses administer chemotherapy or other treatments under the supervision of an oncologist. There are also other essential duties to be done such as being a support system for the cancer patient’s siblings and the family and more so with the child who is undergoing treatment. The nurse must explain clearly and adequately the treatment plans and must be able to assess the physical and psychological needs of the patients and their siblings, and help them treat these as well.

How can you become a Pediatric Oncology Nurse?

This career field in nursing requires you to complete an accredited nursing program and obtain a Registered Nurse (RN) license. You must have interpersonal skills to assist patients and their families especially siblings who equally need due healthcare attention along with the clinical knowledge required from you. The degree level needed is either associate degree or bachelor’s degree in Nursing. You must have at least 1-3 years nursing experience in pediatric, oncology or medical-surgical nursing. The key skills needed for pediatric oncology nurses are: awareness and understanding of other’s reactions, active listening skills, communication skills, clinical judgment and decision-making ability.

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Freslyn Lim

About Freslyn Lim

I am a Registered Nurse currently taking my PhD in Nursing. I earned my Masters in Nursing major in Nursing Administration in March 2011 and had my clinical experience as Staff Nurse in the ICU, Pediatrics and NICU. I am presently a nurse educator/clinical instructor.

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