Just an Oncology Nurse? Not At All

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 10, Volume 10, Issue 1

An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring Corrine C. Hoeppner, MN, ARNP [Seattle Children's Hospital in Seattle, Washington]

Corrine C. Hoeppner, MN, ARNP and Nina Garkavi - PHOTO BY SY BEAN

She may officially be a nurse by job title, but that does not describe Correy Hoeppner. She cannot be summarized or labeled by a simple description, or put into a category with all other nurses. She’s not just a nurse — she’s extraordinary.

As a “frequent flier” of the medical world now, I meet many nurses, both men and women. They are all different: friendly, funny, nice, caring, annoying, careless and those who make you feel like a burden or they only have time to deal with one specific issue and nothing else. But none of them compares to Correy.

She hears you when you’re speaking, not merely listening nonchalantly. She cares and makes time for all of your concerns. She makes you feel important and not just like a random patient with a patient ID number. She makes you feel like a person — a person she cares about and one that she will do anything in her power to help heal.

Imagine someone who will respond to literally anything, and do so all the time. It is hard to think that that exists, especially in this day and age. I have friends I have known since childhood that are often “too busy” or have different priorities for their day. Correy never seems to convey that she is too busy, even when undoubtedly she is. She does this for me personally, but more impressively, she does this for all of her patients. Anyone around town who knows of the oncology unit at Seattle Children’s Hospital knows about Correy and can bond with you over a positive story about her or an experience they had with her.

Once people set foot in her clinic, she instantly treats them like family. She is always willing to answer every little question without making you feel ridiculous at all for asking it. She calms any worry or fear you have over and over again, even if the worry is illogical or can’t possibly happen, without making you feel crazy or like a hypochondriac. She is happy to give any piece of advice regarding your current treatment or any questions that come up afterwards.

During active cancer treatment, I always thought I had random pains and was constantly searching online for things that were going wrong with me. Correy always listened to me thoroughly and helped me address every issue, one at a time. She took me seriously and looked at every nonexistent lump that I thought I had developed, even when she knew they weren’t actually there. She would sit through my cry-a-thons in the treatment room. She made me laugh when certain checkups and side effects required very uncomfortable positions — and would joke, “Have all the doctors at Children’s seen your butt yet?” Ha! That made me laugh.

I was one of the few young adults at Children’s Hospital before they had their luxurious young adult wing, but she made it a point to never make me feel uncomfortable. No topic was off limits, and she was always genuine. We had that very sad but necessary conversation regarding my inevitable fertility issues in the future, and we discussed future workplace adjustments that I may need. No matter how difficult the topic, Correy always reached out her hand in support.

She has the memory of an encyclopedia; she remembers names, family members, friends, boy updates, stories you may have told her while drug-induced, treatment protocols, your side effects and all sorts of various facts about you and your personal experience in her care. And Correy is a connector, always wanting to bring together her patients who might be of help to one another. Correy gets personal and never hesitates to share her own experiences or thoughts.

I am nearly four years out of my last day of treatment in 2012, and I am still in touch with Correy. Once you’ve met her, you have met a guardian angel who stays with you always. For every issue that comes up with my medical care, questions that I have regarding survivorship programs to attend and now even regarding internship advice, Correy is the person I “cc” in an email or write an email to. She is the person I seek out and run up to if I see her at an event. She is the one I want to update with my current successes and health improvements. She does not get paid to keep in touch with me and does not need to check in for any follow-ups. She just chooses to. And that is what makes her truly extraordinary.