An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring KATHERINE YOUNGBLOOD, M.S., B.S.N., RN, CPN, CPHON [ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE]
BY Patricia Cathey, M.S.N., RN, NE-BC, St. Jude Children
From left: Katherine Youngblood, M.S., B.S.N., OCN, CPN, CPHON, and Patricia Cathey, M.S.N., RN, NE-BC - PHOTOS BY ST. JUDE CHILDREN'S RESEARCH HOSPITAL / PETER BARTA
During more than 30 years of caring for high-risk childhood cancer patients at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Katherine “Kathy” Youngblood has been a model of quality and compassionate nursing. She has been influential in the careers and lives of many people, and she has shown me these qualities time and time again as I rely on her to help facilitate unit function, productivity and efficiency. Kathy is a true leader. Her thoughtful communication throughout the hospital helps decrease delays in care while providing consistency for patients and families.
In 2015, the hospital received designated magnet status, a recognition of excellence granted by the American Nurses Association, because of the continued efforts of nurses like Kathy, who has worn many hats during her time at St. Jude and mentored hundreds of nurses along the way. Kathy is one of the most dedicated and thorough nurses I’ve ever met, but her best strengths are her critical-thinking skills, attention to detail, mentorship and willingness to do whatever it takes for patients.
At St. Jude, we are dealing with pediatric patients with cancer, and chemotherapy regimens are a big part of treatment for some. It can often be difficult for patients and families because of the time it takes and the care needed to avoid infection. Kathy essentially manages the St. Jude “Room of Chemo,” or ROC, on weekends. Her job is to ensure that all patients receive their medications in a safe and timely manner. A big struggle for nurses serving on the weekend involves making sure that patients receive the correct orders; when the clinics are closed, it’s not a simple matter of calling them for verification. Kathy meticulously researches orders from clinics and will go to any length to make sure all patients receive their medications.
Kathy also can often tell you what any scheduled patient’s plan is for the rest of the day. She is great at navigating the protocols and patients’ charts to find important information, and many co-workers go to her when they have questions or problems locating order information. She has been nicknamed “the Private Investigator” by her co-workers.
Another challenge of the weekend shift: the unexpected nature of wait times. Holdups happen, and they can be frustrating for anyone, especially parents and children going through an experience like cancer. Kathy is always open with families about what is causing the delays. She seems to have the right read on what to say and can make anyone crack a smile.
This ability to communicate with families extends to her relationships with co-workers, as well. She is always willing to drop what she is doing to help others, assisting with chemotherapy, computer systems and compliance data. She is a very encouraging team player, and through her participation and leadership in many areas, she emboldens our staff to strengthen their own career growth and development. Kathy has reached level 5 in St. Jude’s Clinical Advancement Program, which recognizes and rewards nurses for their contributions; is an Association of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Nurses (APHON) chemotherapy and biotherapy instructor; supports Certified Pediatric Hematology Oncology Nurse certification for peers by providing study materials and tips; serves on the national editorial board for the APHON Counts newsletter; and is a magnet champion, providing leadership for magnet status.
Her attention to detail and compassion for others are excellent qualities, but to me, what makes her an extraordinary healer is her ability to care for patients.
Recently, in spectacular fashion, Kathy helped resuscitate and save the life of an 8-year-old boy who had developed a severe fever accompanied by an abnormally low white blood cell count. After IV antibiotics were administered, he became hypotensive and required a very aggressive fluid resuscitation, stress-dose hydrocortisone and norepinephrine drip.
When the boy was brought to the intensive care unit for further management, two peripheral IV lines were started quickly, push-pull bolus was given without a hitch, and broad-spectrum empiric antibiotics and blood were administered promptly. It was an amazing display of clinical knowledge and poise under pressure. Her efforts and those of the others with her helped save that child’s life that day, and Kathy has many other stories like that.
Kathy is one of the most extraordinary nurses I have ever met, and her care for patients and families continues to inspire St. Jude staff. It’s been an honor to serve with her and have her experience on my team. She is an outstanding influence for many nurses at the hospital, and we’re grateful to have someone like her.