Nurse dedicates her life to oncology
Tami O’Brien has seen people survive and she’s seen people die.
She’s held patients’ hands and watched parents scream and cry as their worst nightmares come true.
As the director of oncology at Northfield Hospitals and Clinics, the Waseca resident shared some of her stories with a smile on her face, and at one moment, tears in her eyes. Not once in the more than 20 years she’s worked with cancer patients has she wondered if she chose the right path.
“I never have days where I question why I do what I do,” O’Brien said. “I have good days and I have bad days, but it’s all so rewarding when a patient or their family tells you they would have never made it though, had they not had the support we gave.”
The toughest times
Day in and day out, she said, the most common thread that lingers throughout the oncology department is the fear of the unknown, the question: “Am I going to die?”
To Oncology Nurses, From a Seasoned Patient
I don’t have a degree in medicine. I have not taken the rigorous classes you have taken. I cannot start an IV, take a pulse, identify a rash, or properly dress a wound. I have my degree in English. That means I can point out grammatical errors on restaurant menus, but measuring medicine into a vial hurts my brain.
I’m not trying to offer medical how-tos. Instead, I’m offering one patient’s perspective from the other side of the thermometer, the stethoscope, the hospital gown. So that you understand I have some legitimate experience to back up the advice I’m offering, here’s a glimpse at my treatment resume:
I was diagnosed with Stage 4B Hodgkin Lymphoma in 2009 at age 26. Four years later, we now know I have a rare, refractory strain of the disease. I’ve had more than 30 chemotherapy agents — several regimens requiring inpatient stays. I’ve had nurses come to my home to administer chemo. I’ve participated in several early phase clinical trials that required constant nurse-to-patient correspondence. I’ve had four surgical biopsies performed and underwent two failed autologous (my own cells) and an allogeneic (from a donor) stem cell transplant that required 25 consecutive days of inpatient isolation and much intimacy with nurses.
Medical teams at Hartford Hospital and Yale New Haven Hospital in Connecticut, MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas and Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Columbia/New York Presbyterian in New York City have treated me.
Through all this, I’ve had so many incredible, moving experiences with nurses. I am forever grateful to those medical team members and the selfless and steadfast care they gave that carried me through the ups and downs. I’ve had few bad encounters, but unfortunately, it’s those unpleasant ones that stand out and make you realize your vulnerability as a patient and how much you rely on the intelligence and thoroughness of your nurses.
ED visits at the end of life: Helping patients maintain their care decisions
Despite a preference to receive end-of-life (EOL) care at home, many patients with advanced terminal illnesses actually go to the emergency department (ED) in their last months, weeks, and days of life. In fact, some hospital centers report that 40% of patients who present to the ED may be in their final 2 weeks of life.1 When patients are dying of cancer, their circumstances place crucial demands on hospital staff, which can be disruptive in several areas.
Why would a patient spend his or her final days or hours in a crowded ED? A trip to the ED of any hospital means long hours of waiting for the patient to be seen, which can be stressful for patients and caregivers—even those in relatively good health. In a paper published in the American Journal of Hospice & Palliative Medicine, researchers undertook an investigation to gain an understanding of why patients present at emergency departments during the most difficult time in their lives. The researchers hoped that understanding the behavior can help prevent it and allow patients dying of cancer to remain in their home during their last days.
This retrospective review was undertaken by Elaine M. Wallace, MB, BCh, BAO, MRCPI, and her colleagues in the Department of Palliative Medicine, Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Dooradoyle, Limerick, Ireland. They investigated why patients presented to the ED at the end of life, how the staff assessed the patient, what treatment the patient received, and what the outcome was. The researchers reviewed the records of 30 patients aged 47 to 89 years who went to the ED over a 6-month period. Their data was culled from the records from the ED, the hospital, and from the palliative care home care team.
Originally posted 2013-06-07 00:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter