As Roles Evolve, Oncology Nurses Share Passion for Care and Education

Barbara Reville, DNP, NP, Dany Hilaire, PhD, RN, and Meghan L. Underhill, RN, MS.

Dany Hilaire, PhD, RN, will never forget the day she decided to become a nurse. It was one of the saddest of her life.

Her father had just died, and his nurses now turned their attention to Hilaire, her mother, and her siblings. “I remember one of them giving me the tightest hug and telling me it was going to be OK,” recalls Hilaire, Dana-Farber Inpatient Hospital nurse director. “I could see the compassion in her eyes, and I felt so safe. In that moment, I realized I wanted to become a nurse and bring that same comfort to individuals one day.”

Now Hilaire is doing just that for patients and their families. In honor of National Nurses Week May 6-12, she and fellow Dana-Farber nurses Barbara Reville, DNP, NP; Meghan Underhill, PhD, RN; and Kristie Weeks, RN, OCN, are sharing what drew them to the field of oncology nursing and what aspects of their jobs brings them the most satisfaction.

Weeks, program nurse at Dana-Farber/New Hampshire Oncology-Hematology in Londonderry, New Hampshire, enjoys caring for as well as educating her patients – a dual role she often serves while monitoring individuals who are taking oral chemotherapy.

“My favorite part of my job is when I see a patient smile when I have been able to get the medication they need,” says Weeks. “I enjoy navigating and encouraging patients while on their complex journey of cancer.”

Through advances like oral chemotherapy and precision medicine, that journey is always evolving. Underhill, in her role with the Phyllis F. Cantor Center for Research in Nursing and Patient Care Services, thrives on conducting research in cancer genetics and sharing her findings with nursing colleagues and patients living with hereditary cancer risk.

Kristie Weeks, RN, OCN.

“The great things done here for patient care and science, and the possibilities for the future, are inspiring,” says Underhill. “I love the people I work with and the mission we all serve.”

Many nurses, including Barbara Reville, DNP, NP, find themselves filling a variety of roles in service to that mission. In her time at Dana-Farber, Reville has been a nurse manager, a research nurse with a breast cancer prevention trial, and helped other nurses pioneer a nurse-run pain and symptom management consultation service – which evolved into the current Adult Palliative Care division. Today, she is on faculty with the Psychosocial Oncology and Palliative Care department, both caring for patients and educating fellow nurses.

“I appreciate working in an environment that values excellence, whether in patient-centered care, multidisciplinary care, or teaching,” Reville says. “I learn every day from colleagues from nursing, pharmacy, social work, chaplaincy, and medicine.”

Asked what they believe makes a great nurse, Reville and her colleagues agreed on many of the same qualities: selflessness, patient advocacy, authenticity, patience, being a good listener, compassion, curiosity, and, when necessary, a good laugh.

“Some days are hard,” says Weeks, “but a sense of humor is a must to keep the previous attributes in balance.”