Oncology nurses not only give to their patients without reservations, but they also help their other nurses without reservations.
I have had the privilege of knowing Elaine DeMeyer, M.S.N., RN, AOCN, BMTCN, for 27 years. During this time, she has worked alongside me in blood and marrow transplant at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas. Her job as an educator led her to encourage change that provided patients with a better quality of life.
In the past, the unit did not use physical therapy to help individuals maintain strength during a 50- to 60-day hospital stay. Armed with research data and a willingness to help get this program started, Elaine approached the physicians. This led to individuals leaving the hospital with the strength and endurance necessary to face their lengthy post-recovery period.
Elaine has always sought to make sure the patient perspective is included in her educational efforts, from teaching nursing students to writing curriculum for advanced training to teaching Oncology Care Model preparatory classes to registered nurses. She learned the importance of this perspective from a personal journey with her mother, who died of breast cancer when Elaine was in her teens, and also through the death of her father, who had head and neck cancer.
One example of this is the countless hours Elaine has devoted to teaching other nurses how to put a curriculum together for cancer survivors about the benefits of research. She volunteered to partner with Cancer Support Community North Texas to bring speakers to the nurses’ facilities to present on this important topic.
She has also given in a very real way to the Dallas community. Elaine volunteered to help me with a health initiative for Ethiopians in the Dallas metroplex. This area has one of the largest groups of Ethiopian immigrants in the nation. The health and well-being of this group are sadly lacking, largely due to lack of knowledge about health care, especially cancer prevention. She spent hundreds of hours selecting educational sessions that would be meaningful to this group and assisting in the development of a large health fair. She did this at great sacrifice to herself and her family, because this was not an easy organizational feat.
The end result was an energized group that has formed a coalition dedicated to starting a church-based health clinic and carry- ing on with the health fair annually. Elaine assisted in getting four nurses from that population trained by Faith Community Nursing to help them develop a strong, well-organized health plan.
I believe that Elaine embodies the traits of an extraordinary healer. Her willingness to lead with heart and knowledge will be carried on by many who have been taught by her, and through those nurses, patients will receive better care.
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