A Dedicated, Energetic Healer and Pediatric Oncology Nurse

July 21, 2019

Rachel Steele, B.S.N., RN, OCN, is an extraordinary healer. As one of the only pediatric nurses in an adult-focused cancer hospital and radiation oncology department, Rachel has intangible ways of connecting with families and children that engender instant comfort in such an overwhelming environment.

Only a few feet separated me from the intensive care unit crib that held my son, but the agonizing fear I had of simply touching my own newborn child was paralyzing. I am a nurse and the mom of three boys, yet I found myself terrified to nurture my own child. My pregnancy was filled with bed rest, ultrasounds, tears, worry, hospital stays and, ultimately, a premature infant requiring three months in the neonatal intensive care unit. There was absolutely nothing that could prepare me for my sudden inability to be emotionally present for my own son.

Amid the intravenous lines running into his umbilical cord vein and the feeding equipment filling his crib, I stood idly by, frozen. I now realize that the emotional experience of illness has just as much impact as the physical element. Extraordinary healers are those who show up and can see in murky waters. Eventually, the nursing staff encouraged me to touch my baby and hold his tiny hand. The one thing that I remember vividly was that I could see right through the top of his fragile ear. His skin was translucent. The nursing staff arranged for my son to receive a quiet, more private room and a special knitted blanket, and pictures of our family were tenderly placed inside the crib to welcome our little one. I finally felt more at ease.

Rachel Steele, B.S.N., RN, OCN, is an extraordinary healer. As one of the only pediatric nurses in an adult-focused cancer hospital and radiation oncology department, Rachel has intangible ways of connecting with families and children that engender instant comfort in such an overwhelming environment. Supportive and nonjudgmental, she has a commitment to her craft that is seen every day. I see Rachel find the most incredible ways to fill the spaces between “just another hospital visit” and a comforting experience that provides some familiar territory, just as I experienced with my son.

From left: Kristi Frenken, B.S.N., RN, and Rachel Steele, B.S.N., RN, OCN . Photos by Amy Clark.

Extraordinary healers have the innate ability to scan a chaotic situation and tease out the single most important elements of the condition affecting the outcome. Rachel is a tireless, dedicated and energetic nurse. Her job is multifaceted and reaches beyond her ability to be a pure clinician. Spearheading the department’s pediatric staff training, Rachel provides guidance to the new residents and staff on protocols and coordination of the equipment, including Broselow bags, anesthesia equipment and CPR training. Rachel also facilitated an annual competency training for all staff in radiation oncology to help them become more comfortable and familiar with the pediatric population and how to respond to an emergency.

Rachel developed and implemented a pediatric anxiety scale in the electronic medical record system for the department. Additionally, the scale assisted in evaluation of nonpharmacological interventions for anxiety. Rachel was able to present her research at the Oncology Nursing Society Congress in 2017. Her training skills are not only used by the radiation oncology department but also are implemented hospital-wide by the education department, including the emergency and the anesthesia departments, which collectively respond to pediatric code-blue emergencies.

As the liaison between Nationwide Children’s and The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Rachel initiates the coordination of services from the time of consult through treatment and follow-up. This includes obtaining records, coordinating appointments with the children’s hospital, communicating medical information between providers and educating family members on what to expect during radiation treatment. Rachel coordinates anesthesia for patients, schedules the team of providers, ensures that the proper equipment is available and provides a sense of calming energy to not only her patients but also their families. Rachel is also a strong advocate for her patients and is their voice when many of them do not have one.

Alongside the pediatric radiation oncology physician, Rachel coordinates a weekly pediatric meeting with the physics, dosimetry, therapy, nursing and billing departments. She also remotely attends a weekly tumor board discussion about the pediatric patients. Rachel has built up the pediatric program within radiation oncology and strives daily to improve coordination and, ultimately, patient care. She provides continuity of care for the pediatric patients and their families during weekly treatment visits, follow-ups, daily anesthesia, consultation and aftercare. When

Rachel is on vacation or out for personal matters, she still calls or emails to make sure her patients receive nothing but the best care. I have never seen her miss a beat. Rachel uses her critical-care background and precise assessment skills every day, including but not limited to an intense review of the patient’s outside medical records and ongoing laboratory values, scans and hospital stays. Rachel continually updates the clinical team and provides valuable input regarding the patient’s day-to-day symptom changes.

A consistent presence for her patients and their families from start to finish, Rachel is the first greeter in the morning and the person walking the family to the door in the dark. Rachel investigates each child’s special preferences — from fruit snacks to animal crackers, crayons, coloring books, video games and stickers — and ensures that something is awaiting their arrival. She facilitates purchasing final treatment gifts, fills helium balloons, and creates personalized signs and cards to make her patients’ final treatment days special. Rachel researches where patients go to school, finds out about their extracurricular activities and learns who their favorite superheroes are. Life is made up of meetings and partings. Along the way, we desire a healer by our side who sees us and is there to understand and help. We want that healer to be on our side and help us figure out challenges together. Rachel Steele is that extraordinary healer.


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