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A Lifetime of Achievement for an Oncology Nurse

Publication
Article
Extraordinary Healer®Extraordinary Healer® Volume 17
Volume 17

In her career as a nurse, Mary Colasuonno, B.S.N., RN, BMTCN, has always made a conscious effort to make every interaction count.

Mary Colasuonno, B.S.N., RN, BMTCN, started her career at the City of Hope National Medical Center (COHNMC) more than 30 years ago. COHNMC is a National Cancer Institute-designated health care facility providing care for patients with cancer in Duarte, California. Mary has worked on a bone marrow transplant inpatient unit for all of her nursing career.

Recently she was asked to step in as an interim nurse manager for another hematology inpatient unit. She wholeheartedly accepted and developed close relationships with the nursing staff there over the span of three months.

Two oncology nurses: From left: Mary Colasuonno, B.S.N, RN, BMTCN and Lesley Gan, M.S.N., M.S.H.A, RN, EBP-C   Photos by Alyssa Stefek

"Positivity fosters healing," says Mary Colasuonno, B.S.N, RN, BMTCN, a finalist for the 2023 Extraordinary Healer award.

From left: Mary Colasuonno, B.S.N, RN, BMTCN and Lesley Gan, M.S.N., M.S.H.A, RN, EBP-C

Photos by Alyssa Stefek

In her career as a nurse, she has always made a conscious effort to make every interaction count. Mary is always determined to provide positivity to others. In her own words, positivity fosters healing. She is a firm believer that whatever light you can provide to a patient will be what is needed in that moment.

Mary has positively affected patients in so many ways. She has inspired her patients to want to do better not only for themselves but for her as well. Mary recalled a patient she took care of 30 years ago. This patient returns to COHNMC each year for the Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion. At this event, patients celebrate their survivor- ship after having a stem cell transplant at COHNMC. Every year, this patient seeks Mary out to cherish Mary’s impact on her healing and conquering of cancer.

Mary’s patients have described her as an angel who was especially appointed to care for them. One patient even recognized her voice in a dark room during a nurse shift handoff. This patient was overwhelmed with sadness when she learned that her cancer was no longer treatable. Mary helped this patient cope with the emotional toll that cancer takes on its victims. Even though Mary had been her nurse years prior, she recognized her voice immediately. Mary has a genuine and authentic approach with patients that makes her unforgettable. She prayed with the patient who was faced with the life-wrenching reality of a terminal diagnosis.

Mary goes out of her way to care for patients, even when they aren’t assigned to her or even on her unit. Her sister-in-law’s husband received a diagnosis of diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. She took it upon herself to discuss the treatment course with her sister-in-law and her husband.

Mary believes strongly in the value of education and knowledge. She feels compelled to teach each patient about the treatment process and side effects so that patients are not surprised by what occurs. According to Mary, knowledge provides power for patients. In her perspective, nurses can become accustomed to the treatments they provide and they often forget that the experience is extremely new to patients. She goes out of her way to make sure all treatments and interventions are explained to and understood by patients.

Along with patient care, Mary has been a lifetime volunteer. Even during her break from nursing to raise her children, Mary volunteered with the international evangelical Christian nonprofit Awana and her local church. She raised wonderful children who are now her legacy and continue her spirit of volunteerism. Mary is filled with pride when she describes how her son raised more than $100,000 to build a medical clinic in Zimbabwe.

Her influence has a profound effect on all of those around her. In the past year, she became the propelling force behind a blood pressure clinic at the Duarte Senior Center. She gets to know the senior citizens who come to the clinic and really listens to them. One lady purchased the same blood pressure cuff that Mary uses and came back to show Mary how she was following Mary’s advice and tracking her vital signs.

In her interim position as nurse manager over an 18-bed inpatient hematology oncology unit, Mary has led the team to outstanding patient outcomes. Central line bloodstream infections are an ongoing concern at COHNMC. Mary collaborated with infection prevention to ensure that current policies were upheld. She reviewed the policy and expectations for appropriate central line care with every nurse in the unit. Since she started the reinforce- ment of the policies, their unit has not had one line infection.

Not only is Mary a phenomenal healer for her patients, but she also leads her team to seek out excellence in patient outcomes. In everything Mary does, she does so with empathy and an innate understanding of how others feel. It is my honor to nominate Mary Colasuonno for the Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing. In any and all definitions of a healer, Mary exceeds. Thank you for considering Mary for this distinct honor.


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