Oncology Nurse Is in Tune With the Patient's Spirit

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healers Vol. 11, Volume 10, Issue 1

An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring DANIELLE PINKERTON, B.S.N., CPN [ST. JUDE CHILDREN’S RESEARCH HOSPITAL, MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE]

Sherry Johnson, M.S.N., CPON, NE-BC, and Danielle Pinkerton,

Danielle Pinkerton is someone who understands the significance of a nurse’s relationship with a patient, and the impact that relationship can have on treatment outcome. That quality is especially important at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, where we see many of the toughest cases of pediatric cancer and other catastrophic diseases. Danielle works in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, and the patients she serves are immunocompromised and require a keen attention to detail because of the nature of their illnesses and potential risk for infections.

As her supervisor, I have learned so much by observing Danielle’s bedside manner and taking note of how she treats her patients. Her compassion, empathy and clinical ability have inspired many nurses at St. Jude to uphold a high standard of care for their patients. There are many stories of her kindness and attentiveness to patients, but some recent examples highlight her ability as a nurse.

Last year, a patient’s mother commended Danielle for her compassionate care and ability to connect with her child. The patient was in the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit, and Danielle was one of her primary caregivers. The mother shared that Danielle was able to connect with her daughter in a way that made her feel more comfortable at St. Jude, and helped make the treatment process that much easier. When Danielle would enter the room, there were always smiles and laughter, even in spite of the trying times. One day in particular was important to the mother, as Danielle had come to visit the family in the Intensive Care Unit when the patient had recently been taken off ventilator-assisted breathing.

Danielle sang with the patient, playing the patient’s favorite Ed Sheeran song. Despite her daughter passing away later in the year, the patient’s mother shared that the moment Danielle sang with her daughter was a time when her daughter seemed truly at peace and happy. Those moments are not a part of the job description, but Danielle will go to any length to make her patients feel better.

Another story that comes to mind is Danielle’s experience “reviving” a patient’s elf doll. The young patient was upset because he saw his father touching his Elf on the Shelf, Joey the Elf.

The son explained that humans were not supposed to touch the elf, or he would lose his magical powers. Quick-thinking Danielle assembled a team of nurses who helped perform a magic resuscitation, giving Joey “magic dust CPR.” The nursing team also gave Joey a nasogastric tube to help flush his body of the toxins from the human touch, and also started IVs to help circulate Santa’s spirit.

Danielle’s understanding of the impact of her relationships is impressive, and her dedication to patient care is outstanding. One of her strongest attributes is her attentiveness to patients’ feelings, which makes her a great nurse. She is a role model for other nurses on her unit, always maintaining a positive outlook with patients. Danielle knows that going above and beyond her clinical responsibilities helps her patients. She explains that nurses always need to keep in mind that the patients at St. Jude are still children, and that being in tune with a patient’s or family’s spirits helps to positively shape their experience at St. Jude — which is as important to their lives as the treatment they receive.