An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring Angela Ness, RN [ Richard A. Henson Cancer Institute, Peninsula Regional Medical Center in Salisbury, Maryland ]
Angela Ness, RN and Lisa Barnes PHOTO BY JENNIFER SEAY CAMPBELL
I met Angie several years ago when she worked for a local hospice. At the time, she was a nurse seeing hospice patients in the community and working as a liaison with our hospital. I always felt comfortable with her because she was a “straight shooter.” There was no beating around the bush about whether or not the patient who was referred would be accepted into hospice care. The patients and their families were smitten with her because of her ease in talking with them, the time she devoted and the information she shared. She was, and is, very down to earth. Everyone could easily see that Angie cared about all of the patients and their families.
A few years after I met her, we had an opening for a nurse navigator in radiation oncology. I strongly encouraged her to interview for the job. It was a part-time position, so she continued to work for hospice. Eventually, the job became a full-time position, and Angie took the job. Despite Angie’s knowledge and experience, she often questioned her ability to do the navigator job. There was a great deal to learn and keep up with. The position also was not clearly defined and was continually changing. But even on bad days, her focus remained on her patients and their families.
Angie kept plugging along, dealing with all of the institutional changes and pressures while diligently caring for her patients. I have listened to her talk with them, always very calm and relaying information in a way that people can easily understand. She is patient and kind with them. Angie will, however, correct any misunderstanding or misinformation a patient may have. She talks to patients as if they are her next-door neighbors.
Not only is Angie great with patients, she is also great to work with. She always helps out, even if it isn’t her job. She is a team player, despite working with a very busy physician. Her physician trusts her and relies on her to help patients get the quality care they need. She has changed from the person who doubted that she could do the job to one who continually does a good job while always being open to new ways to improve her skills and our practice.
This all is very remarkable because Angie went through a lot of challenges to become a nurse. She was a single mom who was receiving assistance from the state. She raised her sons and took advantage of every training program and opportunity she could. She worked to better herself and take care of her family. She worked her way up through the ranks to become a nurse. Angie appreciates being a nurse and is so proud of her profession — and she should be proud of herself!
Has Angie created some phenomenal program or cure for something? No, she is one of the quiet heroes of our oncology world. She prefers simply to do her job and doesn’t like it when someone makes a big deal over something she does. Angie consistently provides excellent care to her patients and their families. She makes each of us want to do a better job every day.
I am nominating Angie because she is an extraordinary person and nurse. She has worked very hard to help define her job and meet the complex needs of her patients. She connects with patients and their families facing the challenges of cancer. She advocates for them and makes sure that they understand the battle in front of them. While doing this, she encourages, comforts and helps them get through it one treatment at a time.
Here’s to someone who has worked very hard to become an excellent nurse and a quiet hero!