The Oncology Nurse Who Radiates Positivity

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Extraordinary Healer®Extraordinary Healer® Volume 17
Volume 17

Imagine you just received a diagnosis of leukemia; you have no idea what the next steps will be or what your future holds, but you’re greeted with a smile from a nurse who reassures you that “You are in the right place, and we will help you through everything.”

From left: Kirstin Hettinger, B.S.N., RN, OCN, and Amy Noe, B.S.N., RN  Photos by Benhur Ayettey

Kirstin Hettinger, B.S.N., RN, OCN, has dedicated her nursing practice the past eight years to caring for patients with acute leukemia.

From left: Kirstin Hettinger, B.S.N., RN, OCN, and Amy Noe, B.S.N., RN

Photos by Benhur Ayettey

It is with immense pleasure we submit this letter to recommend Kirstin Hettinger, B.S.N., RN, OCN, for the Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing.

Kirstin has dedicated her nursing practice the past eight years to caring for patients with acute leukemia. When reading the nomination criteria for this award, Kirstin immediately came to mind for her unwavering positivity, compassion and expertise. I had the privilege of working alongside Kirstin and have witnessed the extraordinary care, hope and healing she provides to her patients and their loved ones as a bedside oncology nurse.

The diagnosis of acute leukemia is very unexpected and for many an area of complete unknown. Many individuals who receive a diagnosis of leukemia were living life as normal the month before, the week before and, in some cases, even the day before they are admitted and start treatment. The nurse is the first point of contact for this fearful patient.

Imagine you just received a diagnosis of leukemia; you have no idea what the next steps will be or what your future holds, but you’re greeted with a smile from a nurse who reassures you that “You are in the right place, and we will help you through everything.” That extraordinary nurse is Kirstin.

Kirstin is the nurse who meets each patient with a smile and puts them and their families at ease with her presence. The expert leukemia nurse plays a critical role in the patient’s ability to understand, adapt and successfully manage how they are feeling physically and emotionally from initial diagnosis through treatment. I have witnessed Kirstin’s ability to use her expertise and compassion to guide a newly diagnosed patient through their treatment process as if they were her family or friend.

Kirstin provides high-level, compassionate care with a holistic approach, which is incredibly important for patients with acute leukemia because of their extended hospital stays. Treatment requires four six-week stays, which are often extended due to complications. Kirstin provides healing and hope to patients with cancer and their loved ones. She has the uncanny ability to treat all individu- als as if they are her family. She is open and honest with her patients; she meets them at their level and always provides care guided in compassion and empathy.

Nurse colleague Erin Bennett, M.S.N., RN, OCN, SNIV, shares, “Kirstin Hettinger is by far one of the best, most well-rounded nurses I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She goes above and beyond for both patients and her colleagues. Her expertise personally molded me into the nurse I am today, and for that I am eternally grateful. Kirstin is approachable, kind and always willing to lend a helping hand. There is something special about Kirstin that always makes it feel as though she cares about you like you are her own family, whether you are a patient or colleague.

“Whether a patient is newly diagnosed, in active treatment or transitioning to end of life, Kirstin’s compassion and empathetic nature provides comfort and understanding to the patients. She is always the first nurse to sit down with the patient and their families to embrace difficult conversations together. She goes above and beyond to help the patients and family members gain a better understanding of their diagnosis and what to expect. She instills hope, while also providing realistic expectations.”

Kirstin has unwavering and palpable positivity. She comes to work with this each day and immediately has an impact on the unit dynamic. She serves on shared governance councils, is a charge nurse and is one of our unit’s most-requested nursing preceptors. Kirstin has precepted countless new graduate nurses during her career and is always embracing this role as she helps new staff assimilate into the unit culture.

Kirstin has persevered through the COVID-19 pandemic through staffing impacts and changes while never losing her innate ability to bring positivity to an interaction with patients, family members and her colleagues. Kirstin’s passion of caring for patients with leukemia radiates throughout the individualized care she provides them.

From nurse colleague Michelle Orovets, M.S.N., RN, OCN: “Kirstin’s expertise in caring for the acute leukemia population is so great that I found myself listening to her teach new graduate nurses and learning something new often, while simply enjoying hear- ing her teaching methods. New graduate nurses are ensured a better understanding of critical thinking, time management and true empathy for patients by having Kirstin as their preceptor.”

Nurse colleague Danielle Dunnington, RN, OCN, explains: “Kirstin’s expertise on our unit has always been an extremely valuable resource, but during the past few years, when we have seen changes in nursing such as nurses transitioning from the bedside, it truly has kept our unit running. She shares her knowledge while training new staff and has also been a unit resource we rely on. Kirstin is the nurse everyone hopes to have by their side when they are working.”

Nurse practitioner Donica Truitt, M.S.N., APRN-CNP, shares: “Many patients with leukemia require monthlong hospital stays, which push our patients to their mental and physical limits, which Kirstin takes into consideration with her practice. Her positive, radiant personality instantly puts her patients at ease. She provides reassurance, instills confidence and acts as a coach with little effort, because it is second nature to her. Despite increased nursing responsibilities over the past couple of years, I have seen Kirstin continue to pro- vide the same level of high-quality care and dedication no matter how busy she may be.”

We hope you consider Kirstin Hettinger, B.S.N., RN, OCN, for the Extraordinary Healer Award for Oncology Nursing because she truly embodies the qualities of expertise, compassion and helpfulness each day in her nursing practice. Kirstin, even in times of struggle, uses her innate positive nature to move herself and others forward. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this honor than Kirstin.

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