When research or infusion nurses join the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute staff, veteran nurse Peg Lance, RN, OCN, always likes to tell them: “Welcome to your last employer.”
She says it in jest, but Lane insists that often it winds up being true. Dana-Farber adult and pediatric nurses share a dedication to their patients and each other that translates to longevity.
To mark National Nurses Week, Lance and fellow Dana-Farber nurses Laura Ma, RN, BSN; Despina Stavros, RN, BSN; and Kristina Wickman, RN, MSN, share what drew them to oncology and what they enjoy most about it.
“I find it fascinating, being privy to the newest science that is going to truly make a difference in patients’ lives,” says Lance, who came to Dana-Farber as a “night nurse” in 1974 and has been a research nurse the past nine years. “There is a lengthy process that every new clinical trial must go through before patients have an opportunity to participate in it, and I am constantly learning. Being surrounded by professionals who have given their whole adult life to increasing the lives of their patients is a wonderful feeling.”
Ma, a program nurse in Head and Neck Oncology who came to Dana-Farber in 2011, concurs.
“The amazing impact that oncology nurses have on patient care, and the relationships they build with patients and families is humbling,” says Ma, who in June will become director of nursing for the Solid Tumor Program. “When patients are diagnosed and treated for cancer, they are thrust into a highly technical medical field. Nursing is the bridge between the technical and the personal.”
Ma takes pride in “navigating patients through their treatment, and empowering them with knowledge about their disease, treatment, and how to manage symptoms.” For Wickman, a staff nurse in Dana-Farber’s Inpatient Hospital, located within Brigham and Women’s Hospital, the field has been “by far, the most rewarding” part of her life.
“We meet patients from all over the United States and the world, and they bring with them their own remarkable life stories and experiences,” says Wickman. “Being part of a dynamic team of doctors, nurses, social workers, and other support staff, we take care of them during an incredibly vulnerable time in their lives.”
Lane, Ma, and Wickman all care for adult patients. Stavros has been a pediatric nurse in the Jimmy Fund Clinic for seven years, preceded by 22 years split between the bone marrow transplant team and Radiology at Dana-Farber’s pediatric care partner, Boston Children’s Hospital. In these varied roles, she has developed a rapport with young patients and their families.
“I try and find out different things about each family,” says Stavros, who in 2017 received the Excellence in Relationship-Based Care Award from Dana-Farber’s Department of Nursing and Patient Care Services. “This is a fast-paced environment, so it’s important to make that personal connection.”
And after a patient gets better and returns to the clinic as an adult, the memories come rushing back.
“When you see someone sitting there, and suddenly recognize them, that’s the best feeling in the world.” Says Stavros. “That’s what it’s all about.”