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In This Together: Nurses Go Above and Beyond for Patients, Each Other

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When Brooke Lichty, RN, joined Mission Cancer + Blood this past February, she had no idea how much life was about to change. “We were all so surprised at how quickly COVID-19 escalated,” recalled Lichty. “Yet I just keep focusing on the job I get to do and what I can control, which is providing excellent care for our patients.”

 Wendy Kralik, RN, a veteran member of the Mission Cancer + Blood team, feels the same way. “I’ve been here for 21 years, and we’ve never experienced anything like this.”

 Despite life upending for everyone, the nursing team has come together to stay strong and serve as a support network for patients. “Our jobs are really much broader than providing treatment, and we’re honored by that,” said Kralik. “It means we’re also playing the role of friend, counselor and stand-in family member during what would under any circumstance be an extremely emotional and trying time. It’s just more compounded now because of COVID-19.”

 Jane Osterson, clinical operations officer of Mission Cancer + Blood, echoes these sentiments and understands the added complexities in an environment that can change at any moment. “Our staff is exceptional at providing a safe and comfortable experience for our patients, because we really aim to be a ‘one-stop-shop’ in a healthcare sense,” explained Osterson. “Having everything a patient might need on-site, from a doctor to a treatment pharmacist to our nurses means we can serve them more efficiently.”

One of the biggest adjustments for both patients and nurses has been updated rules around visitors. Unless a patient has an extenuating circumstance, such as end-of-life or physical debilitation, they are not able to bring family members to their treatment. “That has been incredibly hard,” said Lichty. “One treatment can range from five minutes to seven hours, multiple times a week, and having a loved one there to provide comfort makes a huge impact on emotional well-being.” 

In addition, staff members wear full PPE, meaning only their eyes are visible. “We don’t exactly look inviting with all of that stuff on,” joked Kralik. The nurses have had to find creative ways to communicate with each other because of their face masks and full-face shields. “We’ve come up with these hand gestures, like we’ll do a check mark in the air when a patient is done with treatment. We try to do these little bonding things that make us feel close as a team.”

Marcy Stocker, chemotherapy injection director, is inspired daily by her team’s selfless behavior. “Our nurses have given up PTO, worked extra hours, taken on more shifts…I’m just in awe of their attitudes and willingness to go above and beyond no matter what. While these are difficult times for everyone, it’s our strong relationships with each other that make the days easier.”

Despite the unusual and sometimes challenging circumstances, the nursing staff has seen hope from their patients. “Our patients are incredible,” said Lichty. “They are the reason we keep doing what we do. They have been so thankful and expressive during this time, and we’re so humbled by that.”

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