Courtney Huffstetler, M.S.N., RN, OCN, is dedicated to breaking down barriers to cancer care.
Nurses are the superheroes of health care and none more so than Courtney Huffstetler, M.S.N., RN, OCN.
Courtney practices nursing in a small radiation oncology clinic in a rural area. The people in the community are often resource challenged and face many hurdles when they receive an oncology diagnosis. The COVID-19 pandemic has further reduced access to care and resources for patients. Courtney is dedicated to helping them through their treatments and beyond. Her intimate knowledge of the people and the community enables her to have a true impact.
Patients receiving radiation treatments often are also receiving chemotherapy. With her background and knowledge of chemotherapy, Courtney is able to recognize and help patients who have side effects from those treatments. This has an even greater impact during periods when the small medical oncology clinic where the patient receives infusions is closed.
She frequently intervenes and advocates for patients, ensuring they have the right medications to manage their side effects or administering fluids in the radiation department to avoid an emergency room admission.
Patients in her area often do not have primary care physicians or must travel a long distance for follow-up care. They may have limited access to home health services. As such, they often need assistance with issues not related to their radiation treatments. Courtney never hesitates to jump in and help. She does whatever she can, from dressing a wound to removing stitches to providing education about tube feedings.
When patients are not able to travel to the larger facility an hour away for follow-up care or if they don’t have internet access, Courtney facilitates virtual visits from the radiation department. Courtney is always there for them, finding ways to fill the gaps. This need has never been greater than during the pandemic.
Courtney’s desk is located along the route patients take as they come and go for their daily treatments. They frequently stop to talk with her. Even though she does not have a lot of extra time in her day, she finds a way to spend a few minutes with them, getting to know them. They share their struggles, and Courtney always has a listening ear. She forms a bond with them and becomes a source of strength. This again has never been more needed than during the pandemic when patients have had limited interaction with others.
Another roadblock for many of her patients is being able to afford their medications. Because of Courtney’s relationships in the community, she has been able to help. Courtney collaborated with a local drug store owner to offer medications at cost to radiation patients who don’t have insurance. She also explains other resources available to assist in significantly reducing the cost of medications.
Courtney’s tenacity in helping patients get the things they need is unparalleled. For example, if she knows a patient needs a wheelchair but lacks the ability to pay for one, she will ask someone who has one that is no longer needed if they would be willing to donate it. This kind of exchange would not be possible without Courtney’s ability to gain the trust of her patients and families and her unyielding patient advocacy.
Courtney’s commitment to the health of her patients and community pulled her outside the walls of the clinic this past year. Recognizing the importance of vaccination, especially for her immunocompromised patients, Courtney helped run several COVID-19 vaccination clinics. She also helped her patients get appointments at the vaccination clinics.
Courtney is a true hero whose superpowers are courage, compassion, competence and com- mitment to her patients and community.
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