Beyond Treatment: The Human Touch in Oncology

Interview Chiara Arcangeli, nurse in the Oncology Department of Sant’Orsola Hospital in Bologna

Every day, I meet women whose strength and courage teach me so much.” For Chiara Arcangeli, a nurse in the Oncology Department of Sant’Orsola Hospital in Bologna, there is a special nurse-patient relationship that becomes unique when one is open to listening to the other. The nurse is the point of reference for the entire journey and is able to add the value of humanization to the personalization of care.

What inspired you to become a nurse, particularly in women’s cancer care?

Becoming a nurse was my true calling, I don’t like to call it that at all, but it was. I was enrolled in the first year of a three-year photography course when a sudden and unexpected health problem of a very dear aunt of mine, who was like a second mother to me, forced me to attend a very cold resuscitation room.Suddenly, as I was holding her hand, I realized that this had to be my professional future.

Over the years and in different cities, from competitive exam to competitive exam, I worked in many departments and my greatest desire was to continue to be a critical care nurse. Then, by pure chance, I was sent to the oncology department to replace a colleague who was on sick leave. This was 2010 and, to this day, I have never thought of changing. The women I have met over the years are like accomplices who, with their strength and courage, have taught me so much.


Could you describe a typical day or week in your role, highlighting the most rewarding aspects and most common challenges of working with patients in such settings?

During a typical day as an oncology nurse in a day hospital, I provide patient care from the patient’s arrival to the delivery of all required healthcare services. The nurse becomes the hub and focal point of the entire pathway: from the administration of therapies to the management of their side effects and of any related complications, from the assessment of the venous system to the definition of the pathway that patients will have to follow. These are all actions which we could refer to as “standardized” – they are the result of our training and experience. I like to incorporate added value by humanizing and personalizing care, as I believe this fosters a truly unique, special nurse-patient relationship.

I think the most rewarding aspect is to have the opportunity to enter these women’s lives at such a delicate stage. It is up to us to listen and give the support to help them find strength and courage. The main difficulty is to be part of a multidisciplinary group of professionals in which not everyone listens.


How do you collaborate with oncologists and other healthcare providers, and how do you inform patients about the latest therapies and innovations to ensure optimal care?

For the management of oncology patients in Day Hospital, collaboration between the various professionals is essential…Regarding medication, the initial information is provided by the physicians. We nurses then supplement this information with a detailed description of any side effects and various recommendations to try to control them.


Besides medical support, how do you help patients deal with the emotional and physical aspects of their journey? Are there specific resources or services that you recommend most frequently?

As mentioned earlier, I believe that humanizing care makes a difference, and putting ourselves out there to listen helps patients feel less alone. However, one should keep in mind that we are not psychologists, and the support

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