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A Certain Kind of Nurse: An Interview with Anne Todd, RN, OCN

FOR 19 YEARS, Anne Todd served as a secretary in an oncology office where the doctor enjoyed teaching her about the disease.
BY Anne Todd, RN, OCN
PUBLISHED June 11, 2015
FINALIST FOR THE 2014 EXTRAORDINARY HEALER AWARD FOR ONCOLOGY NURSING

FOR 19 YEARS, Anne Todd served as a secretary in an oncology office where the doctor enjoyed teaching her about the disease.

“He would say, ‘Anne, come and see.’ He really enjoyed teaching me about oncology.” His encouragement and teaching led Todd to deciding to return to college to earn her nursing degree—at the
same time her two oldest daughters were in college. She already had an affinity for patients dealing with cancer, so it wasn’t a surprise when she choose oncology as her field of interest.

PHOTO BY SHELIA WHITE

Chuck Wilson [left] with Anne Todd, RN, OCN

She knows it’s not for everyone and has seen many young nurses choose another direction. Indeed, one of her first managers told new oncology nurses that if they couldn’t handle oncology, she would find them another area, an offer that Todd says is not often made by nurse managers. She understood that oncology nurses have to be a certain kind of nurse.

After working in the hospital for a number of years, she is now the nurse for two oncologists at Southern Indiana Physicians Hematology Oncology in a rural area of nine counties. They laugh at the fact that she knows most of the people who walk through the doors—and is related to the rest of them. The rural factor also plays out for new nurses who have to care for older men who have worked in rock quarries and stone mills, and who may have trouble with nurses.

“I had an IU nursing student, and she came to me when an older gentleman would not let her do her assessment.”

Todd walked in and started talking to him about his last name and who he was related to and working at the stone mill. By the time she was finished chatting, the young nurse had all the details for her assessment.

“I told her that older men want to talk about their jobs and what they accomplished, so she needs to do that to create rapport.”

Connecting with her patients is what Todd finds the most satisfying about her job. She spends numerous hours on the phone helping them with chemotherapy side effects, and on the few occasions when she has to consult with the doctor, she calls before the end of day so they don’t have to wait and wonder.

“A few weeks ago I was in the exam room when the doctor told a patient the cancer was completely gone,” she says, clearly choking up. “We get to celebrate the good outcomes and hold the hands of those who have bad outcomes to support them.”

The previous week, Todd says, they lost two patients who had been with them since the practice opened in 2013. When patients such as these come in, Todd says she puts her phone on voice mail and spends some time with them.

The greatest compliment comes from patients, Todd says.

“I was in the grocery store last week, and one of my former patients ran into me. She said, ‘You are my favorite nurse!’”

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