Putting Our Hearts Into Cancer Care

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

An Extraordinary Healer essay honoring KATHLEEN MORRISON, RN, OCN [ST. FRANCIS HOSPITAL, ROSLYN, NEW YORK]

Kathleen Morrison, RN, OCN, and Eileen Dwyer, RN - PHOTOS BY LESLIE RENEE PHOTOGRAPHY

Wow! My assistant nurse manager, Kathleen Morrison, has an uncanny ability to inspire and motivate. I say this because, without Kathleen by my side, the opening of our new infusion center in the cancer institute would not have been a smooth transition and a great success story.

With over 20 years of oncology experience, Kathleen enthusiastically joined our groundbreaking venture at St. Francis Hospital in developing a new service line of oncology. Now, with Kathleen’s hard work, commitment and dedication, we have achieved a monumental task and are able to care for more than 30 patients at a time in our outpatient infusion center.

St. Francis Hospital is nationally known as “The Heart Center.” Oncology was a whole new world to the clinical nurses at St. Francis. While I was busy with the details of setting up the unit, Kathleen jumped right in and started educating the staff. As an oncology-certified nurse for 20 years, Kathleen realized that this patient population needed highly skilled nursing care. She shared her clinical expertise with our novice oncology nurses, teaching and mentoring the staff on safe administration of chemotherapy. While working tirelessly to educate the staff on treatment regimens, she was also instilling in them the need to care for the mind and spirit of each patient we serve. From there, Kathleen’s passion for oncology nursing and her ability to inspire and motivate became contagious to the staff.

Kathleen instilled the importance of certification in a specialty to enhance nurses’ professional development. She was able to involve the staff in their professional organization, the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS). All of our nurses belong to their local chapter, and two of our nurses are active board members of the Suffolk Chapter of the ONS. Because of Kathleen’s passion about education and certification, she proposed to nursing leadership two yearly awards for which the recipients would get to attend the National ONS Congress. One award is “Certified Nurse of the Year” and the other is the “Making a Difference” award. The need for patient safety and the best quality care is crucial for our patients. Today, because of Kathleen’s support and encouragement, our infusion unit is an astounding 100 percent oncology-certified. Each and every nurse portrays a sense of pride and self-satisfaction!

Kathleen not only supports our own staff, but also reaches out to other nurses in the hospital who are caring for oncology patients. She started an initiative of training nurses in the Emergency Department in accessing mediports and providing safe administration of chemotherapy. She provided one-on-one training experience to ensure continuity of care for our oncology patients throughout St. Francis.

Another initiative that Kathleen facilitated is the implementation of the infusion Red Card, to raise awareness of febrile neutropenia in the ER. The Red Card recognizes the need for rapid triage and treatment of oncology patients in the ER. And just last month, Kathleen learned that her abstract “Pre-Initial Treatment Telephone Call to Newly Diagnosed Adult Oncology Patients and Improvement in Anxiety” was accepted for a poster presentation at the National ONS Congress in Denver in May 2017. Her list of accomplishments is endless!

Kathleen has not only educated our staff in chemotherapy regimens, but she is also very active in community-based activities, and encourages the staff to participate. She is often seen leading the pack in many walks and runs, such as Making Strides for Breast Cancer, Relay for Life, Light the Night and many other cancer awareness activities. Kathleen is the heart of oncology nursing. Her kindness to her patients, their families and our staff does not go unnoticed. She always has a smile on her face, and the patients all know her by name. The staff seems to thrive in her presence. Kathleen is a great resource person who always goes the extra mile for the patients and staff.

Kathleen is truly an advocate for providing patient safety in the workplace, and encourages the staff to advocate for our patients and their families. She is a breath of fresh air and a true inspiration to our team. Working side by side with Kathleen is invigorating! There is no price to put on her compassion, professionalism and dedication to her patients and staff. Her presence makes our infusion center a special place to work, and the staff and I truly appreciate her never-ending efforts. She has taught us to learn from our patients and challenge ourselves to always exceed expectations. Kathleen embodies all of the qualities that this award represents. She strives each day to provide the very best care to help our patients through one of the most difficult journeys of their lives. She serves as a role model and mentor to all staff. Kathleen truly “puts her heart into cancer care.”