By Cassandra Green, MSN, RN, OCN®
I always wanted to be a nurse, but it was unattainable for me as a single mother until online programs became available in the mid-2000s. I was a nursing assistant for 18 years before I became a nurse in 2015.
My love of oncology began in 2011 when I took a role as a patient care assistant in the radiation oncology department. I worked full-time in the clinic from 8 am–5 pm and attended clinical in the evening from 7 pm–7 am. I went for many days without sleep and seeing my family.
When I interviewed for jobs after graduation, none felt like a good fit for me. One of the physicians I worked with in the radiation oncology department asked me why I wasn’t interviewing for the department’s open nursing position. I knew that radiation isn’t a field that new graduates can easily enter because of how much it differs from inpatient and ambulatory care, so I answered by pointing out that the department didn’t hire new grads. “You would be a good fit for the department,” he countered. Because he believed in me and my ability to be a great nurse, I felt confident to apply and was subsequently hired for my first oncology nursing position.
Oncology Became My Passion
I love working in oncology. I love the relationships I build with patients and staff and how I am always learning new skills. I feel at home. I go to work with a smile even on stressful days. When I tell people I am an oncology nurse, I always hear the same comment that you likely do: “That must be depressing.” So I explain how far that is from the truth.
I have the privilege to learn about them and their families—and to make them part of my own family, too. I ask about their families, and they ask about mine. I have so many patients asking for pictures of my dog, Sophie, who dresses up for every occasion. The smile on their faces when I show them her latest photo shoot shows me how precious and beautiful life is. When my patients transition, I am often relieved because their suffering has ended. That is why oncology is my passion.
Mentorship Opened My Eyes to Certification
I had great mentors in Josie Sam, RN, MSN, OCN®, and Marcie Crane, a med-surg nurse who is now retired. Josie introduced me to ONS. She told me that I needed to join as a new nurse because ONS could offer me essential education and networking with fellow oncology nurses.
She also encouraged me to get my OCN®. As a radiation nurse, the exam was difficult, and I didn’t pass it the first time. I wanted to give up, but fortunately, Josie and the physicians I worked with would not let me, and I passed the second time. It was the best feeling in the world, even better than when I passed NCLEX.
Why I’m Proud to Be a Certified Oncology Nurse
Certification shows your patients that you are continually seeking new knowledge and expanding your skills in oncology. Although I attained my certification as a radiation nurse, it’s prepared me for my job today as an oncology nurse navigator. Every day, I pull from the knowledge base I developed through certification as I discuss disease processes, treatment options, and symptom management strategies with my patients and their families.
I recently had a patient who would call me every week throughout her treatment, describe what her medical oncologist said, and ask me if I agreed. When she completed treatment, that patient told me how she admired how I chose to get certified and that it showed my dedication to the patients in my care.
When I introduce myself to my patients, I tell them that my name is Cassandra Green, that I am their oncology nurse navigator, and that I am a certified oncology nurse—which means that I am continually seeking education on the advancements in testing, treatments, and symptom management in oncology care. I am always striving to provide my patients with the very best oncology care while they’re at our institution.