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How Oncology Nurses are Knowledgeable, Reflective and Thoughtful

Extraordinary Healer®Extraordinary Healer® Vol. 14
Volume 14

Oncology nurses provide a knowledgeable, reflective and thoughtful position for patients with cancer.

Heather Van Den Bergh, B.S.N., RN, OCN, is the person you would choose to be your nurse if you had the choice and were diagnosed with breast cancer. She is knowledgeable, reflective and thoughtful in every interaction. Her calm confidence allows patients to feel comfortable instantly during visits or telephone calls.

Working at a busy outpatient cancer center in breast medicine, Heather provides sensitive, compassionate care in highly emotional situations in a clinic that treats a variety of patients — women of all ages, some with metastatic disease and others who are newly postpartum, as well as men with breast cancer.

Yet, she is able to convey to each individual a sense of hope and security about how their disease will be managed. Heather ensures that these patients and their families receive exceptional follow-up care. With her background as both an oncology certified nurse and working in bone marrow transplant, she brings to breast medicine a wealth of knowledge and skills from her experience caring for patients with complex health issues.

As the mother of two young children, she has an extensive amount of energy. Her patients and colleagues are amazed at her ability to always be cheerful and positive. She constantly demonstrates all the qualities nurses are most beloved for, exuding hope and positivity to patients who desperately seek optimism. Many patients with breast cancer report severe side effects from both chemotherapy and hormonal therapy that affect their quality of life. Heather’s smile and gentle tone encourage patients to reveal concerns they might not otherwise share, providing the opportunity to promote wellness in ways they might not have considered.

Heather can offer practical recommendations and reassurance to physically and psychologically fragile patients, which helps preserve their emotional well-being. Never judgmental, she is always able to filter through remedies patients may be using while making them feel supported and educated but not criticized. Her ability to troubleshoot with optimism is a huge asset as she cares for her patients.

The personal connection she makes with both patients and their family members is invaluable. The bond between an oncology nurse and patient is so precious, and she provides stability during that psychologically overwhelming experience. Heather often will drop in on patients during their chemotherapy sessions for unscheduled nursing visits to assess their well-being and needs, providing both patients and families with a feeling of supported, comprehensive care. Patients are disappointed when they don’t get to meet with her at their scheduled visits and always ask for her when she is not in the clinic. Her consistency to follow through on her patients’ current or anticipated needs and side effects makes her irreplaceable to her patients and colleagues.

Heather has played a pivotal role in establishing a committee for reducing patient falls and improving safety at her ambulatory center. Through her exceptional interpersonal skills, she has been able to connect leadership, physicians, nurse colleagues and other staff members to foster a sense of connection for this shared goal. As co-chair for more than 21⁄2 years of a multidisciplinary committee charged with creating a culture of safety and sensitivity, she has been instrumental in the outstanding progress made in fall reduction at her center.

Throughout her stewardship, she has engaged all staff with respectful, open dialogue. Her ability to seamlessly integrate feedback into a structured plan ensures continued patient safety. Through her work on the committee, she continues to collect data to increase physical therapy services and remind other staff to appropriately screen patients who would benefit from therapy. Last summer, Heather and her co-chair initiated a highly successful pilot program allowing student nurses to participate in interventions to identify patient safety and decrease falls. Regardless of what she is working on, patients always come first!

A recognized and reliable resource for new and established staff, Heather is a constant support for colleagues experiencing unique situations. An advocate for professional nursing, she supports nursing advances and adherence to evidence-based care, frequently reminding colleagues to attend research presentations and recognizing the efforts of those who present and share their findings. She recently presented evidence-based research to nursing colleagues about the importance of meeting patients’ emotional needs through social work referrals and the benefits that patients will experience if connected.

She is a role model for other nurses, and her consistent ability to provide such warm, compassionate care to any patient she meets is inspirational to all who are lucky enough to encounter her. Heather is the definition of an extraordinary healer!

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