Part of the Family
An interview with Caitlin Cohen, M.S.N., RN, CPNP-AC, CPHON, winner of the CURE® Extraordinary Healer® Award.
BY Kathy LaTour
PUBLISHED April 17, 2019
Caitlin Cohen, M.S.N., RN, CPNP-AC, CPHON, grew up hearing stories about her grandmother, a nurse.
In college, Cohen shadowed her roommate’s mother, a pediatric oncology nurse — an experience that confirmed her desire to be a pediatric oncology nurse practitioner. She has never looked back.
“Children are amazing,” she says. “They have strength that constantly inspires me. Each patient changes me, and I feel so fortunate to care for these incredible children.” She is attracted by their honesty, she adds, and their ability to take things in stride.
Cohen worked as a pediatric oncology nurse from 2007 to 2013. In 2013, at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, she moved into the role of nurse practitioner for children facing bone marrow transplants. This work brings her into the family as she consults with the child and parents before the transplant and then for years after.
The transplant team also functions as a whole to provide support and backup for patients, families and each other, according to Cohen. “When we first go into a room, we are going to go through a lot of information,” she says. “We tell them we don’t know all the answers, but we will find out.” She shares her cell phone number and tells them that they should call her with any question or concern.
“You are a part of their family,” she says. “I tell them to call me with any questions. If you stub your toe, I want to know about it.”
When talking with Cohen, you can hear in her voice the concern and caring that, when she was a week overdue for the delivery of her first child, took her to the bedside of a longtime patient.
When the patient needed to have an MRI, he asked her to stay with him. She did.
The patient, who had received a diagnosis of leukemia as a teenager, inspired every person he met, and his quick wit always made his care team laugh, Cohen says. “His mother was also a constant inspiration and unwavering advocate,” she says. Unfortunately, the young man suffered from debilitating graft-versus-host disease that caused significant pain.
The day after Cohen saw him through his MRI, the young man died with his family at his side. That night, Cohen delivered her daughter. Although she could not be with the patient as he died, Cohen says, his mother felt at peace as she looked at new life after the loss of her son.