As a nurse or midwife, navigating the healthcare system as a cancer patient can feel particularly difficult. Your familiarity with the system may actually trigger concerns and stressors that other patients with a cancer diagnosis don’t experience.

If you are a nurse, midwife or student living and working with cancer, the chances are that you will need specific support. If you would like to chat to someone, you can call our confidential support line 24/7 on 1800 667 877.
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Living and working with cancer

Whatever stage you’ve reached in your cancer journey, it’s likely that you have experienced some of the greatest challenges of your life. You may be confronting your own mortality, contemplating grief and loss, supporting people who are important in your life and experiencing your own vulnerability, all at once. 

Life as you know it may have changed dramatically, requiring you to make some major alterations. However, there are lots of resources and strategies available to help support you through this time.

Working and returning (or not returning) to work

There are a number of issues related to working, returning to or stopping work after a cancer diagnosis. Some common issues include:

  • concerns about disclosing your diagnosis
  • coping with the work
  • post-treatment fatigue and
  • financial concerns.

Check out the other links and resources section where you can explore some useful podcasts to help you address these and other issues you may face.

Strategies to assist you

If you have cancer, you may like to consider the following strategies to help keep you positive and reinforce your health as much as possible: 

  • taking time off work
  • discussing your diagnosis and treatment plan with your manager
  • reviewing your roster and work hours
  • discussing your diagnosis with colleagues who could offer you support
  • accessing your organisation’s employee assistance program
  • talking to your human resources department; some health services offer a sick leave bank
  • reviewing your diet (this resource from the Cancer Council has some great tips)
  • thinking about ways to optimise sleep and rest
  • joining a support group
  • learning meditation and mindfulness, which can assist with lowering your stress and anxiety levels
  • discussing the benefits of an exercise plan with your doctor
  • accessing counselling and 
  • keeping a journal to provide an outlet for your feelings.
Caring for someone with cancer

Research tells us that carers can be under greater stress than even the person with cancer. It is common for nurses and midwives to experience even more stress when they juggle multiple demanding roles as a carer professionally and personally.

Family members will often seek your advice and reassurance even if oncology is not your area of expertise. You may be trying to deal with the impact of a diagnosis of someone close to you as well as emotionally supporting your family and others impacted by the diagnosis. Your profession may make you feel like you have added responsibility to ‘go the extra mile’ to support the person with cancer while trying to balance this with a busy work and often family life. 

During a stressful time like this it is important that you are looking after you even more than you usually do. Check out the resources and services linked below. They can assist you to talk over your concerns and suggest strategies that can help both you and the person affected by cancer.

What can I do next?

Why not read some of our articles on staying healthy that relate to cancer:

Our service provides free and confidential support 24/7, to nurses, midwives and students Australia wide. If you would like to speak to someone call 1800 667 877, or you can request support via email.

If you would like to know a bit more about the service before getting in contact — take a look through accessing support.

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