Tireless Ability to Care


Amy Setesak, B.S.N., RN, CMSRN from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, was nominated by her colleague, Aly Fox, B.S.N., RN, CMSRN, for CURE®’s Extraordinary Healer® Award.

Amy Setesak, B.S.N., RN, CMSRN, is quite simply an extraordinary nurse. There isn’t just one example of what makes her extraordinary but, rather, an accumulation of years of everyday small events and holistic care that illustrate her abilities as a truly extraordinary healer.

As a nurse on the neurologic and orthopedic oncology unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, Amy works with patients recovering from complicated surgeries to the brain, bone or spine or receiving chemotherapeutic or adjuvant treatment for rare neurologic cancers. Her innately caring nature makes both patients and their families immediately comfortable in her presence. As a colleague, I regularly see the relief in patients’ faces when they know that Amy will be back the next day.

In many ways, Amy’s empathy and compassion are hard to quantify, because she radiates these qualities during every patient interaction. Watching Amy nurse is a lesson in compassionate care. She truly listens to her patients and their families, and she considers all aspects of a patient’s life when developing and implementing a plan of care — she seamlessly incorporates the medical, psychosocial and socioeconomic aspects of a patient’s life to provide the best care she can. She treats every patient as if that individual is the only one she is caring for that day — she gives each one her all. For example, if patients have functional difficulties but are too shy to ask for help, Amy intuits that and gives them a hand before they need to ask. Or if a patient comes in for a big surgery and experiences complications, Amy addresses both emotions and clinical events, and the patient knows that he or she has an ally.

From left: Amy Setesak, B.S.N., RN, CMSRN, and Aly Fox, B.S.N., RN, CMSRN. Photos by Ben Hider.

One example of her extraordinary abilities as a healer and compassionate caregiver is the following: A patient who had been admitted a number of times for treatment of a central nervous system lymphoma got to know Amy very well. Unfortunately, the disease progressed, and the patient and family soon realized that the condition was terminal; they felt comfortable discussing with Amy their feelings about this, as well as their last plans, including one more trip to the Caribbean island that they visited annually. When the family couldn’t find a nurse to accompany them with whom they felt as emotionally connected as they did to Amy, they asked her to travel with them and be their nurse during the most meaningful trip of their life. She was able to be the caring and trustworthy nurse that they very much needed during a difficult time.

Amy is widely thought of as an extraordinary nurse among her peers and colleagues. She is, without exaggeration, one of the most dedicated and highly regarded members of the neurology, neurosurgery and orthopedic oncology nursing staff. Her calming and gentle presence belies a fierce dedication to her workplace and co-workers. She recognizes that oncology nursing can be a very difficult profession and embraces challenges head-on, and by doing so, she leads by example. Even on the hardest days, Amy’s cheerful rapport with her patients and co-workers makes not just her patients but also her fellow nurses happier. She is a wealth of knowledge and often trains new nurses on how to manage the complicated field of oncology nursing. Her continually positive attitude and good nature are so important in a field that can be devastating and provide so many newer nurses the hope that they, too, will have a meaningful and rewarding career.

The patients that Amy works with are special — they are often very sick or terminal and require multifaceted care. She always makes herself available to listen to patients and their families in their most difficult times, and in doing so alleviates palpable anxiety, provides reassurance and gives patients the satisfaction that they are being taken care of by a truly gifted nurse. She is carefully optimistic but not unrealistic. This pragmatic approach, along with her naturally compassionate demeanor, contributes to her exceptional practice. Her tireless ability to care is, frankly, extraordinary, and it is this consistent, everyday, compassionate care that makes her an extraordinary healer.

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