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Born to Love and Serve
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Born to Love and Serve

"There is a special class of nurse that exceeds all expectations, a nurse who embodies these characteristics as part of the very fabric of who she is as a human being, one who seemingly was born to love and serve, and that is where you can find Darcy Doege, B.S.N., RN,” wrote Mellisa Wheeler, M.H.A., B.S.W., Atrium Health’s Levine Cancer Institute.
BY Mellisa Wheeler, M.H.A., B.S.W.
PUBLISHED April 21, 2019
A good nurse demonstrates daily the core values of caring, respect for human dignity, integrity, autonomy, altruism and social justice. A great nurse personifies these same traits beyond the borders of her workplace. But there is a special class of nurse that exceeds all expectations, a nurse who embodies these characteristics as part of the very fabric of who she is as a human being, one who seemingly was born to love and serve, and that is where you can find Darcy Doege, B.S.N., RN.

I have had the pleasure of working alongside Darcy for the past seven years in a variety of challenging roles. As the first colorectal cancer nurse navigator at Levine Cancer Institute in 2011, Darcy paved the way for future nurse navigators by shaping the identity of the role, defining the assessment process and building algorithms for follow-up. Her advocacy skills taught others to identify patient care barriers and tackle them with a passion and a dedication that rarely leaves a stone unturned. In a subsequent role as the palliative nurse program coordinator, Darcy led the charge to create the first successful regional palliative clinics, building relationships with dozens of providers and their midlevel and ancillary staff, ensuring that those patients who were most vulnerable got connected to the support they so desperately needed.

Viewed by others as a teacher and a leader, Darcy is frequently sought out for her opinion, guidance and expertise. Regardless of what is on her plate, she is always generous with her time, and whether it is for a colleague or a patient and family, Darcy goes out of her way to make others feel that their needs are her priority.


From left: Mellisa Wheeler, M.H.A., and Darcy Doege, B.S.N., RN. Photos by Erica Mark.

In her most recent role, as the nurse program coordinator for the nation’s first mobile lung cancer screening project, Darcy has been thrust into many challenging situations. In each circumstance, she has responded with integrity, honesty, accountability and, most of all, grace. She single-handedly educated more than 500 providers and support staff at over 40 clinics, as well as dozens of community partners, on lung screening criteria, the importance of the program and the value to the patient.

Darcy is well-known as a seeker of information and can be counted on to ask questions, even when those questions are difficult. Most recently, during the launch of the lung program, Darcy
identified a discrepancy in the reporting among radiology groups, which had the potential to affect patient outcomes. Darcy not only identified and reported the issue but also coordinated and led a team of physician providers who developed a quality-improvement program that resulted in an immediate correction of the problem.

When I think of patient-centered care, “Darcy” is the first name that comes to mind. She is a fierce advocate for all those she encounters. She always goes out of her way to ensure that a patient’s and family’s needs are met, whether they are her primary responsibility or not. I have seen her stop in her tracks to walk a lost and anxious family member to the other side of the campus to find their loved one, take time out of her chaotic day to help a coworker meet a deadline, and continuously demonstrate an unparalleled level of compassion and commitment to best practices.

Recently, when the loved one of a co-worker was experiencing a medical crisis, Darcy not only spent time with the family in the hospital but also went out of her way to ensure that a palliative consult was orchestrated so the family had adequate support to make some difficult decisions. This was not a part of her job; it was simply a reflection of who she is — an incredibly dedicated and caring nurse to her core.

A few months ago, Darcy was informed by a colleague of the impending death of a young patient with colon cancer with whom she had worked very closely earlier in her career. Darcy made efforts to reach out and, with the patient’s permission, coordinated a home visit to offer support, share her compassion and say goodbye. Examples of her heroic compassion are more plentiful than the word count allows, but suffice it to say that Darcy meets people where they are and holds them every step of the way.

Darcy is a dot connector. Her masterful networking skills and genuine interest in people make her a natural leader. Co-workers call upon Darcy for both professional and personal advice because they know she cares and will go above and beyond to assist. Despite having her own incredibly busy schedule, she is constantly asking “What can I do to help you?” and “Where can I jump in?” Nowhere is her caring more evident than when you see her in action with her patients. One question that is routinely asked of patients the day of a lung screening is “What made you want to come today?” and the answer most frequently reported, without hesitation, is “Miss Darcy.”

When the program started, Darcy called on one of the first patients screened and found out that, due to his lack of insurance, he was unable to afford the monthly cost of oxygen. Darcy sprang into action and coordinated free oxygen delivery through one of her community connections, and she called every pharmacy within his family’s driving distance to ensure that he pays the lowest possible amount for his prescriptions. Her care for others is boundless and beautiful.

The success of the first mobile lung cancer screening bus in the country has everything to do with Darcy’s tenacity, her belief in doing the right thing for the patient and her desire to see the optimal results for every patient every time. She has even been found cleaning the floors of the lung bus or polishing the walls to ensure that patients who climb aboard have the best experience possible.

Darcy Doege is not a good nurse or even a great nurse; she is a truly gifted nurse who embodies the best of the profession in everything she does.
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