Making a Difference: An Interview with Noelle Paul, RN, BSN, OCN, CAPA

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 8, Volume 14, Issue 1

Noelle Paul has time to talk on the way home from her job as an oncology surgical nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

FINALIST FOR THE 2014 EXTRAORDINARY HEALER AWARD FOR ONCOLOGY NURSING

NOELLE PAUL, RN, BSN, OCN, CAPA, has time to talk on the way home from her job as an oncology surgical nurse at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. Today, she only

stayed an hour past her shift, but she explains that she needed to spend time with a patient whose surgery was postponed until tomorrow.

“SHE WAS so nervous anyway. I needed to keep her distracted and calm until there was someone who could spend some time with her. Being there with her and keeping her distracted was so important.”

Paul decided to become a nurse in high school. “I loved science and wanted to do something in health care. I could see what a different relationship patients had with nurses than with doctors.”

Oncology nursing came about when she cared for a patient during an internship in nursing school. As it is with many oncology nurses, she went where they needed her and then never left. “I found an affinity with the cancer patients. They were complex and there was a psychosocial side.”

She recalls the patient with head and neck cancer in his 30s and how very hard it was for him after a devastating surgery.

“I took care of him from pre-surgery to when he went home. His family was devastated. I got to make a real difference in his life and got to know his family and be involved.”

For Paul, it’s about making a difference no matter the outcome for patients experiencing the most dramatic moments of their lives.

After 15 years of oncology nursing at Sloan Kettering, she says her decision has been affirmed many times by her patients as she prepares them for surgery and then stays with them afterward.

“We have also seen so many advances in the diagnosis that used to be a death sentence. The quality and quantity of life have changed for cancer patients.”

Paul says she is grateful to be a nurse in oncology and for what she has learned from her patients about perseverance and strength and an unwillingness to give up—even when the patients die, she says.

“We can be present to be sure they are getting the things that contribute to a peaceful end.”