A Beacon of Hope for Patients With Cancer

Extraordinary Healer®, CURE® Extraordinary Healer® Vol. 16, Volume 16,

According to a colleague, Christine Wylie, M.S.N., RN, OCN, is an excellent resource for patients with cancer.

It is with great pleasure that I nominate Christine Wylie, M.S.N., RN, OCN, for the 2022 Extraordinary Healer® Award. One thing that I am sure of is that Christine is an extraordinary healer. She has been influential in making so many other nurses, like me, into extraordinary healers too.

At the time I retired in fall 2021, I was a colleague of Christine. Christine had been very instrumental in making my last years in clinical oncological nursing a unique and special time. I had many years of experience in various positions and departments, but oncology was where I wanted to spend my final years working.

Due to the grind of 25-plus years in many roles of nursing, I had developed hip and back issues. I knew it was time to transition my role in order to prolong a career that I absolutely loved. So I applied for an outpatient chemotherapy infusion position and was hired at the prestigious Siteman Cancer Center at Washington University in St. Louis.

I am a retired Air Force flight nurse who had served in the war zones of late. I would be the first male RN in this particular center, and I also was unique because I was 64 years old. One might imagine that I could be quite a challenge for a much younger, yet professional, preceptor. Thank goodness Christine voluntarily took on that challenge.

The Siteman infusion suite is noted by patients as a center of hope and a place where their care is made much more tolerable. We often hear comments such as, “It feels more like a family gathering than a chemotherapy treatment.”

The staff often gets complimented for their genuine care and compassion. Much of this praise is due to Christine. Her friendly face is the first one patients see in the chemotherapy treatment pods. She makes an enormously positive impression on the patients through her teaching, and this in turn sets the stage for our successful relationship with them.

Christine started as a staff infusion nurse in 2014 and since then has advanced into various roles as the care center progressed and grew. She simultaneously pursued her nursing education to a master’s level with focus on nursing and patient education. While working as a key member of the staff, she also developed several new roles within the center that have been most instrumental to our excellent care success.

Six months after being hired, she was promoted to float nurse coordinator. This was a new idea for the center, and she developed this role, which gave her the ability to float between an infusion nurse providing direct care and a clinical nurse coordinator in the clinic setting, based on the staffing needs of this fast-growing treatment center. The position was so well developed and utilized that Christine was tasked to train two more in-house nurses for the position.

In 2019, Christine was promoted to clinical nurse educator. This was another role that was new to the center, and it became her responsibility to create and provide proof of its value. With this role, she has the enormous task of teaching all of our patients about their chemotherapy treatments, common side effects and how to effectively manage them.

She is also in charge of keeping nursing up-to-date on new therapies or indications, changes in policies and procedures, arranging Basic Life Support renewal certification classes for staff and whatever else is thrown her way. She is key in helping new staff get oriented and trained to her lofty standards.

Christine quickly took this new job and ran with it. Her model was such that she was asked to help other sites develop and engage this position.

As South County became a major clinical treatment area, Christine continued to grow and develop her clinical expertise and teaching/training skills. She helped advance several in-house committees that directly affect our patient care delivery.

She serves on the policy and procedure committee and the unit practice committee. She works with the clinical pharmacy team on issues with patient treatment plans. She is a liaison between the clinical teams and the patients during their course of treatment to ensure maximum benefit of the care plan.

She will work in any area of need. She is a team player with extraordinary abilities, and she unselfishly assists all with guidance and direction toward professional goals.

Christine is the strongest advocate for our nurses to obtain their OCN certification. She finds prep classes and resources for our nurses to succeed in gaining this prestigious certification. She has a personal goal of certifying all of our nursing staff and is very close to achieving this. She has developed and teaches accredited chemotherapy classes for new staff. She is a constant proponent for continuing professional growth and development through education and skill mastery for all of our nurses.

Christine recently took the reins of the evidence-based practice committee and presented one of her projects at an Oncology Nursing Society conference. She has worked on many new projects relating to evidence-based practice and is involved in trialing the use of patients using oral cryotherapy by chewing on ice while receiving Adriamycin (doxorubicin) infusions. The goal is to evaluate the efficacy of this intervention as it applies to alleviating the side effect of painful mucositis. The early results are very positive.

Christine played an important part of the research and implementation of our staff nurses changing our injection practices for intramuscular medications. We changed these injections from dorsogluteal to ventrogluteal sites. This helped alleviate pain and increase drug absorption while reducing the risk of accidental sciatic nerve irritation. Many of our nurses had never given a ventrogluteal intramuscular medication injection. Christine trained all to a high confidence level and our patients have benefited.

Christine has been a highly effective resource as we implemented scalp cooling for our patients. This helps prevent hair loss when receiving hair follicle sensitive chemotherapies. It has been such a success that we recently added more scalp cooling machines.

In 2018, we upgraded our electronic medical records to the EPIC system. This was particularly difficult for all of us. Christine was so amazing at calming us. Her skills of helping this make sense to us saved the day. She did a better job at explaining the changes than the program company’s trainers and really was so very helpful to me personally.

Christine is innovative and involved in the development of training support materials for both patient and staff using the latest technology. She has garnered training supplies to instruct patients on their intravenous line care for those who use home infusion pumps. She has utilized these materials using a hands-on approach that allows a very new or timid patient to overcome their fear of chemotherapy and build needed skills.

Christine’s compassion for the patient begins when they receive a diagnosis of cancer. She helps them transition to taking an active role in their therapy, including being able to read signs and symptoms and possible complications of therapy. They learn to understand their laboratory values, nutrition principles, medications and how to communicate with their care team.

Her communication skills are very adaptive and easily customized to the needs of the patient and the staff. She is known to provide small but significant little tricks to alleviate some of the discomforts of chemotherapy that are often left off the standard question-and-answer forms. Her follow-up calls and her resource availability have been extremely helpful in ensuring our patients receive their treatment with less fear and anxiety.

Christine’s skills in assessing, adapting and conveying new and ever-changing information regarding COVID-19 pandemic guidelines and protocols ensured that we maintained the safest and highest level of protection for our immunocompromised patients with cancer.

Christine is a consummate professional with a strong desire to use her well-developed knowledge and skill set to provide the best patient care experience.

She has hugged, laughed and cried with all of us — staff and patients. When our patients experience her compassion and caring, they are put at some measure of ease and comfort. She is a beacon of hope on their journey and a guiding light for our journey in our ability to provide the very best patient care.

She truly is an Extraordinary Healer®.

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