It is important to learn boundaries between nurses, patients and caregivers when in a clinical setting.
While my sister was going through cancer, her care team - specifically her nurses - was a saving grace. On long nights while she tried to rest, they coached me on what was to come. They provided comfort when I often felt so alone. And when I realized what some of them had already known, they began to teach and prepare me for what being a nurse would really be like. To this day, some of her nurses are some of my closest friends.
In nearly three years, birthdays and babies came to pass. I went to baby showers, graduations and had parties. While all this was happening, I did not think much of it because it made sense. We were in that hospital almost more than we were at home. My late fiancé worked in that hospital, and even when home, we would all go out and grab dinner and drinks together.
My sister was just 27 when she was diagnosed, and I was a 23-year-old caregiver. Most, if not all, of her nursing team fell between us in age. It meant we had a lot to talk about and, with how much time she sent in the hospital, we all got to know one another fairly well. The fifth floor came to refer to us the "the sisters" and myself and a CAN gained the nickname "double trouble" for some of our antics.
Having worked in the field of oncology, I now better understand the need for separation between personal and private lives. While I will always be eternally grateful for every moment of time that was so graciously given to my sister and me, I know that certain boundaries were broken. In a way, I was the gray area amongst many black-and-white rules, since I was not the patient, even though I spent just as much time in the hospital as she did.
Having lost patients that I worked with, I now know how hard that can be. And I can't imagine the heartbreak that our care team would have experienced, because when my sister was at her sickest, I know that many of the nurses were hurting at her potential loss just as we, her family, were.
And as I head into the field of oncology, a field that is already incredibly difficult, I can't imagine enmeshing myself into the life of a patient beyond the clinical setting. That is not to say that nurses should not exhibit humanity and kindness with patients or celebrate birthdays and wish one another well. It is to say that sometimes, friendships are not best formed with those that you are caring for.