An interview with JESSICA KOBS, RN, Extraordinary Healer finalist.
FOR JESSICA KOBS, RN, becoming an oncology nurse was the most logical path to take. She watched her mother come home daily from her nursing job in neurology, and when she was a senior in nursing school, she chose an externship at American Family Children’s Hospital in her hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.
It was there that she found her calling.
“I always wanted to work with children, and I knew during my time here that this was where I wanted to be,” she says. “I like getting to know the families and being with them from morning to night.”
That was eight years ago, and Jess, as all the kids know her, continues to work mostly with the children who have cancer, something her friends don’t understand.
“They think this would be sad,” she says. “But I find children uplifting and resilient. They bounce back.”
For each age, Jess says, there are ways to reach her patients, such as jokes, games and sharing what they enjoy. For the adolescents, including the young man who nominated her, she creates themes for their rooms when they are expected back for treatment. Using decorated sheets that she hangs on the walls, she makes each room different, depending on the child and his or her likes and dislikes. “There was a Taylor Swift room and a dog room and a Scrabble room,” she recalls.
It’s important to talk to them as if they’re adults, not children, she adds of her adolescent patients. “I get them to help me with apps in my phone.”
Jess says she strives to create a positive attitude, making the day the best she can for her patients. “Everyone works together. The teens hang with the 8-year-olds. The kids you meet bring a smile to your face, and even though their tiny bodies are fighting, they still enjoy life and the fun things,” she says. “I do my best to make them laugh, and I get just as much back.”
Jess grows close to many of the families that have children on the floor, and her goal, she says, is to bring a smile whenever possible.
“I try to make each day as happy and pain-free as possible for these kids. They are often stuck in the hospital for many months over holidays and birthdays. I, along with my coworkers, try to make these events special and memorable for them so they aren’t missing out.”
Jess says this can involve anything from dressing up in party hats and singing “Happy Birthday” to using a fart machine on April Fool’s Day.
She calls herself “just a floor nurse,” but it is clear she is so much more.