Celebrating Oncology Nursing Day
“Our patients are wonderful people, and so appreciative. They fill my cup.”
It takes a special kind of person to work in cancer care. In celebration of Oncology Nursing Day on April 4, we’re pleased to introduce you to five Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS) oncology nurses from our Juravinski Hospital and Cancer Centre (JHCC).
Our JHCC is the only hospital in the region where patients can be treated for all forms of cancer, with more than 26,000 cancer patients supported each year.
Tracey Mullen, oncology nurse case manager
Registered nurse Tracey Mullen is an oncology nurse case manager who coordinates care for patients of two malignant hematologists. (Malignant hematologists are doctors who specialize in caring for blood cancer patients.)
These case managers work as a team with doctors to support patients who are visiting for appointments at diagnosis, and during and after their cancer treatment.
The case manager assesses and updates information from the patient to share with the doctor. This can include medication changes, new symptoms, and treatment side effects such as nausea from chemotherapy.
“I’m usually the first face they see before meeting with their doctor,” says Mullen.
Oncology nursing can be quite complex, since cancer patients may have other health and social issues that need to be considered when planning and delivering their treatment, says Mullen. “We have to apply all of our nursing knowledge, including understanding how cancer treatment plans might affect other health conditions.”
Mullen especially enjoys developing relationships with patients and their families. “Our patients are wonderful people, and so appreciative. They fill my cup.”
Diane Boyd and Ewa Sawicki, bedside nurses
Registered nurse Diane Boyd and registered practical nurse Ewa Sawicki are bedside nurses who care for patients admitted to hospital. Boyd cares for blood cancer patients while Sawicki supports patients who are recovering from surgery for cancers including include colon, breast, liver, gynecological and urologic.
“After 25 years of dealing with cancer patients, working directly with patients at the bedside has always been the job I’ve enjoyed the most,” says Boyd, who joined the hematology team just over a year ago. Prior to this, Boyd worked in other areas of cancer care including the chemotherapy suite, and as an oncology nurse case manager.
While cancer is a frightening word, it’s not all doom and gloom, adds Boyd. “In hematology, especially right now with all of the research, advancements and new treatment options, we can give many patients much more hope.”
Boyd also welcomes opportunities to mentor new nurses. “I really enjoy working with young nurses who are so keen on learning. They inspire me with their excitement and they keep me young.”
Sawicki is also passionate about bedside care. “When people think of oncology, they think of chemotherapy and radiation,” she says. “However, many oncology patients have to undergo extensive surgeries that leave them with new wounds, ostomies, or drains that they must learn to manage. I love being a nurse and supporting them in this learning.”
Megan Mantel, stem cell transplant coordinator
Registered nurse Megan Mantel is a nurse transplant coordinator, working with hematology patients needing an allogeneic stem cell transplant. An allogeneic transplant refers to stem cells from a donor.
“The donor could be a family member, or someone living halfway around the world,” says Mantel, who uses a worldwide database to search for the best possible match.
Mantel also supports patients in the weeks leading up to their transplant, so they know what to expect and can take all the necessary steps and tests to prepare.
Our JHCC is a top hospital in Canada for hematology, with one of the largest hematology divisions in the country. Hamilton is also a national leader in terms of stem cell transplants and cellular therapy.
“Hematology is an ever-evolving area of cancer care,” says Mantel. “There have been so many advances in recent years, which is very motivating to me as an oncology nurse. There’s always something new to learn, and something new to offer to our patients.”
Fatima Chuong, Oncology Day Services
Registered nurse Fatima Chuong works with blood cancer patients visiting the hospital for day treatments including CAR-T cell therapy, plasma exchange, as well as stem cell collections and transplants.
A nurse for seven years, she discovered a passion for oncology back when she was a nursing student doing her placement at JHCC. “I was really inspired by the nurses, and the care and comfort they provided to patients,” says Chuong, who finds working in hematology fascinating due to rapid advancements in hematologic cancer care.
But the greatest feeling, hands-down, is hearing from blood cancer patients who got their lives back thanks to the care they received at JHCC, says Chuong.
“We sometimes receive updates and photos from former patients, letting us know what they’ve been doing since they left the hospital. Learning how they’ve gone on to lead their best lives is so inspiring. It’s absolutely the best part about being a nurse, and it’s the greatest feeling in the world.”