Misconceptions about working in Pediatric Oncology

Misconceptions about Working in Pediatric Oncology: Through the eyes of a LMIC nurse

Nursing can be a gruesome job and is surly not for the faint of heart. As the world is evolving so is nursing with different specializations. I began my Pediatric oncology nursing career in 2016 in a philanthropic hospital in Karachi, Pakistan after being an adult neurology nurse for 5 years. Well, all I can say is I was destined to be one. While working as a nurse in this field, I have noticed there are major misconception amongst society as well as health care workers.


Misconception 1: Childhood cancer does not have a cure

About three quarters of children diagnosed with cancer in the developing countries are able to live a healthy life after effective treatments. The majority of childhood cancers can be treated. With the advancement in science, medical teams are able modify treatment protocols according to a child’s cancer. Various modes of treatment such as chemotherapy, radiation, surgery and immunotherapy have been developed and refined to treat and cure cancer.


Misconception 2: Nurses working in pediatric oncology will also have cancer

Many fellow workers come up to me and ask if I have cancer or have been screened for it, and there are many more novice nurses that say “sorry, I can’t work in this department, I don’t want to have cancer; I want to start a family and if I work here my child might have cancer”. Cancer is not contagious nor infectious. In order to have cancer one needs to have a wrong gene playing a foul game. You cannot catch cancer from anyone else.


Misconception 3: Nurses should not get emotionally involved with patients and families

Pediatric oncology nurses have a strong connection with the patients and their families. Nurses provide support to patients through thick and thin during the most difficulty time of their lives. These routine interactions create a special bond and keeps the sensitivity alive. We become emotionally involved especially with very personal interactions, patients and their families become close to our heart and as being a human being it is okay to get emotionally involved with patients BUT keep the professional boundaries in view.

Nursing is a noble profession, when taking an oath we pledge to take care of all regardless of their cast, color, creed, gender and age. Pediatric oncology has been a rewarding journey for me, has brought a new perspective, no child should die of cancer (St. Jude) and no child should fight alone. I am their warrior.


Shenila Anwarali

Clinical Nurse Specialist in Pediatric Oncology

Co-chair – SIOP Global Health Network Nursing Working Group