The Definition of ‘Extraordinary’

Gean Brown, MSN, RN, OCN, CNML

Extraordinary Healer®, Extraordinary Healer® Vol. 15, Volume 15,

A colleague describes the RN coordinator at Smilow Cancer Hospital at Yale New Haven Hospital as the rock that patients need during their cancer treatment.

If you look up “extraordinary” in the dictionary, you should see a picture of Allison Vallance, B.S.N., M.A., RN, CBCN, a certified breast care nurse. Under her picture should be a caption that reads: “Allison Vallance, B.S.N., M.A., RN, CBCN, caring, compassionate, survivor.” Allison is a registered nurse in the outpatient surgical oncology breast center, and her title is RN Coordinator. She coordinates the patients from initial phone contact right through to survivorship, and she does an amazing job.

Patients have written to me to tell me they could not have gotten through their cancer diagnosis without Allison. I was told she is the rock that held them together, the one constant in the very stressful journey. Allison is one of those nurses who genuinely cares and treats each and every patient and caregiver with the utmost respect and kindness. She leaves no stone unturned when it comes to patient care, and her ability to empathize with her patients is extraordinary. Allison helps patients understand their diagnosis and next steps; she is there to provide the tools they need to cope and is there with them when coping may be hard. She is the shoulder they need, the expert they need and the helper they need to navigate the system.

Allison has twice fought breast cancer herself, so she has personal perspective on what her patients are going through. She is there for them wholeheartedly and they know she can be counted on. Allison doesn't use her own experience to guide the patients because she knows that each and every person is living through their own journey, and she would never compare herself to them, but her firsthand knowledge does influence the way that she thinks and the way that she knows that even the little things matter a lot, like making things easier for the patients such as helping them get an appointment they need or bigger things like arranging transportation for them. She provides many resources for the patients and families including financial resources and social support. The list goes on. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she helped to organize a food drive to give food to the patients and families who needed it bit more help.

An example of Allison's good work came in a letter written by a patient that said, "I love how efficient, kind and supportive your nurse Allison is. I love how I am constantly reminded that I am in good hands. Cancer is scary, but I know I am safe.”I believe that sums up Allison very well.

Editor’s Note: This is an essay submitted by Gean Brown, MSN, RN, OCN, CNML, for the 2021 Extraordinary Healer Award. Click here to read more about CURE®’s Extraordinary Healer® Award for Oncology Nursing event on April 30, 2021.

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