The Academy of Oncology Nurse & Patient Navigators (AONN+) is pleased to announce the 2016 Oncology Nurse Excellence™ (ONE) Award nominees. Nominees are recommended by their peers for their display of leadership, compassion, and commitment to evidence-based practices.
And the nominees are...
Peggy Malone, RN, BS, OCN
Peggy Malone, RN, BS, OCN, oncology nurse navigator at OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center, Center for Cancer Care, Rockford, IL, was nominated for the ONE Award for her dedication to oncology research.
A nurse with close to 30 years of experience in oncology, Peggy began her career in an inpatient oncology unit and recently transitioned into the nurse navigator role. “The idea that you get something meaningful out of your job always drew me to nursing,” she says.
Peggy has integrated a love of research into her work as a navigator. Working closely with research associates, she created a survey tool in 2014 to measure patient satisfaction with the nurse navigator program. After months of data collection, she is now in the process of publishing an article summarizing key findings. For instance, the tool has highlighted the potential to expand the center’s telephone program, which would make patient callbacks more accessible.
She would also like to expand the program to provide a navigator for more types of cancer. “Many patients said they wouldn’t know what to do without the navigator,” she said. “The survey results really validate the important work we’re doing every day.”
Peggy has also completed training as a performance improvement lead for Six Sigma and was the lead nurse on a 2-year project involving outpatient oncology/palliative care integration with a number of cancer centers around the country. “We developed an assessment tool for our patients that automatically refers them to a palliative care outpatient clinic if they meet certain criteria. So far, it’s going well,” she says.
The work of other researchers continues to inform Peggy’s own practice. “I remember a study that surveyed patients to see what traits most impacted how they responded to their nurses,” she says. “Patients wanted nurses to be present for them, to tell them the truth, and to show them respect regardless of who they are. Whether my work involves research or patient care, I work within those guiding standards every day.”
Linda Penwarden, RN, MN, AOCN
Linda Penwarden, RN, MN, AOCN, has been nominated for the ONE Award because of her contributions to patient care at St. Luke’s Mountain States Tumor Institute in Boise, ID.
A cancer survivor herself, Linda has been in oncology for more than 28 years. Her perspective, both as a patient and a clinician, informs a class that she developed 15 years ago and continues to this day.
“I felt there was a gap in how we educated patients,” she says. “They would receive papers about treatments and side effects from their oncologist after the initial diagnosis, and they would be further educated while sitting in the chair getting chemo. That just didn’t seem to be the optimal time.”
So Linda founded the organization’s weekly Treatment Learning Class. Content includes everything from how chemotherapy works to what patients can expect from dietitians and social workers. Patients, family members, and caregivers are invited to attend prior to treatment, and DVDs and web-based information are available for those who cannot attend.
Nurses and pharmacy residents work together to lead the class, which is how Linda connected with St. Luke’s pharmacy residency program director, Robert Mancini, who nominated her for the ONE Award.
“The class helps patients feel more relaxed in what is an otherwise uncomfortable and alien experience,” he says. “Linda developed that class because, at heart, she’s a nurse who does everything for the patient. She’s been on both sides of it.”
Linda became particularly attuned to the patient perspective when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2014. She continued to work and even taught the Treatment Learning Class while undergoing treatment herself.
“I would tell the class, ‘It’s pretty obvious that I am one of you because, look, I have no hair and no eyebrows,’” she recalls. “Cancer gave me the opportunity to know that what I’ve told patients for many years is true. I also know now what it means to experience chemo or struggle to get out of bed.”
Linda goes above and beyond her patient-centered work to volunteer with the American Cancer Society and the Quality Oncology Practice Initiative (QOPI) through the American Society of Clinical Oncology. She has served as a QOPI surveyor for 5 years.
“It’s an honor to see how other facilities function behind the scenes,” she says. “I tell the sites I’m surveying that, ‘I’m not searching for mistakes—I’m coming to verify that you’re meeting the standards I know you’re meeting and to share my experiences from other sites.’”
Linda also helped to build the navigator program at St. Luke’s, now in its ninth year.
“Our program was well ahead of the curve and even received one of the largest contracts from the National Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, which helped us build a very robust program,” she says.
Theda Shaw, MSN, RN
Theda Shaw, MSN, RN, was nominated for the ONE Award for her work as support group leader and community organizer at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA.
Theda joined the Penn State Cancer Institute Outpatient Clinic in 2013 as a genitourinary cancer nurse coordinator. Soon after, she launched a bladder cancer support group for more than 100 patients and their families.
The support group meets 6 times a year and discusses topics such as nutrition, anxiety, and integrative therapies. The group has developed a newsletter and a brochure for new patients. The success of the bladder cancer support group has been a springboard to other support groups.
“Theda has mentored her colleagues who are starting other support groups within our cancer institute,” says colleague Belinda Frazee, MSN, RN, OCN. “She goes above and beyond to support patients and their families by educating them and making sure they understand the next steps.”
Theda has also helped her hospital grow its annual survivorship celebration. This year, the survivorship celebration had approximately 300 people at a half-day conference with keynote speaker Terese Mascotti, breast cancer survivor and author of Chemolicious: Getting to Your Best Self. Theda spearheaded the planning committee, but the success was largely due to the teamwork of numerous hospital staff and volunteers.
Theda is also instrumental in the planning of the spring health fair at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. This was the third year for the fair, with more than 50 vendors offering information about massage, reflexology, smoking cessation, wound/ostomy care, and more. To Theda, the health fair is what nurse navigation should be. “It is about reaching out to the community and networking with other departments,” she said. “It provides a chance for all of the departments and community organizations to come together for the benefit of the patients.”
Theda also serves as 1 of 15 clinicians on Pennsylvania’s Prostate Cancer Task Force, which was established last year to make recommendations on the state’s prostate cancer screening guidelines.
Theda’s passion is helping individuals, communities, and entire regions connect. Her nursing philosophy is one of accountability, professionalism, and compassion. A nurse might only see a patient for 1 day, but together, nurses are making a difference that will last for the rest of the patient’s life.
Colleen Wheat, RN, OCN
Colleen Wheat, RN, OCN, was nominated for the ONE Award for her excellence in patient care at Ephraim McDowell Commonwealth Cancer Center in Danville, KY.
Cheryl Bolling, RN, OCN, nominated Colleen for the award because she’s “the epitome of the oncology nurse we should all strive to become. She welcomes patients and families with a beautiful smile and embraces them in her warmth and compassion,” Cheryl says. “Colleen personalizes her care: she remembers the comforts and conversations of not only the patient, but the family as well.”
Colleen enjoyed this level of personal care when her father was treated for cancer at the same facility in 2007. “At the time, I was the director of a home health agency and wanted to get back into patient care,” Colleen says. “I met all the staff here when my father was diagnosed with cancer and thought, ‘They’re so happy—I need to work here.’”
Colleen describes herself as a “very positive” person, an attribute she gets from her parents. She strives to foster that outlook in her patients and colleagues. “I encourage my patients to live their lives to the fullest, because we never know how long we have on this earth, and every day is a blessing,” she says. “Sometimes they think they can’t do this or that because of cancer, but I encourage them not to let it alter their lives.”
Another takeaway from Colleen’s time helping her father through cancer treatment is the importance of educating families in addition to the patient. “As long as it’s okay with the patient, we’ll speak with family members about treatment and challenges they might go through with the patient,” she says. “We do everything we can to make families feel more at ease, because that makes them better able to help the patient.”
This November, Colleen will celebrate 8 years at her institution. “Not a day goes by that I don’t go to work loving my job,” she says. “Not everyone can work with cancer patients, but to be there for patients and families the way other nurses were there for my father and me is amazing.”