Pediatric Oncology Nurse Always Thinking of 'Her Kids'
I am privileged and honored to nominate Miami Cancer Institute (MCI) pediatric oncology nurse Alicia De Pazos, RN, CPHON, for the 2019 CURE® Extraordinary Healer® Award. Alicia has been a pediatric oncology nurse for over 32 years. In that time, she has held many different positions — all in the pediatric oncology setting.
BY Alice Cockerel, M.S.N., M.S.M./HM, RN, ONC, CNL
PUBLISHED July 14, 2019
“Your child has cancer.”
Those might be the most frightening words any parent could ever hear.
I am privileged and honored to nominate Miami Cancer Institute (MCI) pediatric oncology nurse Alicia De Pazos, RN, CPHON, for the 2019 CURE® Extraordinary Healer® Award. Alicia has been a pediatric oncology nurse for over 32 years. In that time, she has held many different positions — all in the pediatric oncology setting. She has worked as a pediatric hemophilia nurse coordinator, inpatient nurse liaison for pediatric hematology/oncology and office manager/infusion nurse in the pediatric hematology/oncology office, and she is currently our pediatric nurse navigator and pediatric patient care supervisor.
Alicia was instrumental in developing the pediatric oncology infusion clinic at MCI. She was part of a multidisciplinary team that developed a needs assessment for the clinic space, workflows for special procedures, scheduling of patient visits and more. She collaborated with MCI pharmacy for pediatric medication protocols. She works with “her kids” to fulfill their wishes through the pediatric Infusionarium virtual reality program — e.g., swimming with the dolphins in Key Largo, Florida; “trips” to the Miami zoo; live events with the Miami Heat basketball team; and “visits” to a NASA jet propulsion lab and Disney events — while they receive their chemotherapy treatments.
In her expanded role as a pediatric nurse navigator, Alicia participates in the care of our existing and new patients. Her years of experience in the inpatient and outpatient settings allow her to help patients, families and staff navigate insurance matters, scheduling issues and the daily operations of the outpatient clinic.
Alicia continues to seek opportunities to grow and build on her knowledge base by attending conferences and other educational programs. After 32 years, she returned to school to pursue her bachelor’s degree in nursing, graduating in February 2019. She has maintained her CPHON certification since the first exam was offered in 1995.
Alicia industriously takes on new projects and solves any issues, facilitating patient care, and she is a true patient advocate. She was instrumental in planning and establishing blood transfusion and sedation procedures in the outpatient setting at MCI. Alicia collaborated with the radiation oncology department to develop its pediatric post-anesthesia care unit for procedures such as bone marrow aspiration, intrathecal chemotherapy administration and the use of proton therapy. This process allows patients to avoid a hospital stay, so they are able to spend less time at the outpatient center and more at home.
One of Alicia’s greatest strengths is her ability to assess a situation, map out a patient-specific plan and explain it to the patient with the intent to encourage compliance. Alicia never tires of teaching patients and families, often repeating educational information because she realizes the importance it plays in positive outcomes and empowering patients and their caregivers.
Alicia is an active member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) and had been involved with the Pediatric Oncology Group (which merged with three other pediatric groups in 2000 to form COG) since 1986. She works with the MCI pediatric team to assess patients’ eligibility to participate in clinical trials and serves as MCI’s nursing resource investigator for COG. Her expertise makes her a resource for pediatric disease and treatment protocols throughout Baptist Health South Florida. Frequently, those from other specialties reach out to her with questions related to the treatment and care of pediatric oncology patients.
Alicia collaborates with MCI child life specialists to organize fun activities in the department — attending holiday parties with the children, chaperoning oncology patients on trips and planning activities for Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month every September. She is involved with the Children’s Cancer Caring Center, a charity organization that has helped hundreds of children, both local and international, receive the care they need.
Alicia is an exceptional nominee because of her willingness to assist patients in whatever capacity is necessary and to support, educate and encourage her co-workers to grow in their professions. Pediatric oncology can be a challenging place to work, but Alicia has never wanted to work anywhere else. She feels the responsibility to be there to support patients and, hopefully, alleviate any stressor — no matter how small — for them and their families. For our patients and families, she is a friendly and familiar face among so many new ones. Alicia goes out of her way to gain the trust of the patients and families, which in turn makes procedures less stressful for them. She shares in the patients’ joy upon their last chemotherapy treatments, a milestone we hope they all will achieve. Unfortunately, the reality is that not all our patients will survive, and it never ceases to amaze me how Alicia is always willing to have those difficult end-of-life conversations with the patients and families whose outcomes are not what we hoped they would be.
Despite her role as the pediatric patient care supervisor, Alicia prioritizes procedures and hands-on care for patients, and many request her care and attention. Doured Daghistani, M.D., a pediatric oncologist at MCI, refers to Alicia as a jack-of-all-trades because of her broad knowledge base, experience and willingness to go above and beyond when helping patients, their families and staff members. Their appreciation is best expressed in the words of 4-year-old Matthew: “Dear Alicia, thank you for always helping me and taking the tape off very soft.”