Generosity was the thread that tied together three oncology nurses honored in CURE®’s 2019 Extraordinary Healer contest. Two finalists and a winner were recognized for giving more time and effort than their jobs demanded to support their patients, colleagues and institutions.
In essays by patients, colleagues or family members, these nurses and 51 others were cited for going above and beyond the line of duty by offering life-changing compassion, expertise and helpfulness.
Before an audience of 1,000, Caitlin Cohen, M.S.N., RN, CPNP-AC, CPHON, a nurse practitioner at the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital, in Illinois, was named the winner. The announcement came during a dinner and ceremony in Anaheim, California, held in conjunction with the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) 44th Annual Congress.
As a nurse practitioner for children facing bone marrow transplants, Cohen supports and advocates for patients and their families.
At the Extraordinary Healer event, her fellow oncology nurses were moved by stories of how she went above and beyond for those patients. In one case, she provided high-calorie protein and vitamin drinks for a malnourished young man with graft-versus-host disease whose mother was having trouble affording food — all the while letting the family think the hospital was providing the supplements. In another example, Cohen spent a lot of extra time over a period of six months lending a supportive ear to a patient whose depression and anxiety made it difficult for her to cope with a bone marrow transplant. Finally, Cohen became an integral support for one family that suffered a lot of loss in a short period of time, taking time outside of her work hours to be there for them.
Also honored during the ceremony were two finalists.
Barbara Bittner, RN, OCN, of AdventHealth in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, and Charlene’s Dream in Daytona Beach, Florida, was recognized for her efforts as a volunteer while continuing to put her patients first in her job as a nurse navigator. Bittner was a founding member of Charlene’s Dream, a nonprofit organization formed in 2015 to provide education and support to local women with cancer. It was founded in honor of fellow nurse navigator Charlene Brady, who died of cancer but had envisioned such a facility. Bittner was praised for running an arts therapy group there for a year, and then a satellite support group. For a while, her nominator pointed out, she was regularly driving 25 miles out of her way to pick up a support group member who needed transportation to meetings.
Angela Hammack, B.S.N., RN, OCN, a charge nurse and clinical educator with Jackson Oncology Associates in Jackson, Mississippi, was cited for turning her passion for running into a way to honor those she takes care of and raise over $100,000 for cancer research and patient support. In one instance in 2017, she trained for five months to run a 100-mile course, which she completed in 29 hours, 36 minutes and 2 seconds. Hammack works to support the Hope House of Hospitality, which provides a place for those who travel for treatment; the Cancer League of Jackson, which raises money for the American Cancer Society; Susan G. Komen; and the American Lung Association. She has worked on oncology legislation at the national and state levels, including helping with the passage of an oral parity law.
Michael J. Hennessy, Jr., president of CURE® Media Group, said the event is one of his favorites because it recognizes “so many passionate people who truly care about what they do and the patients they affect daily.” Having accompanied his mother to chemotherapy treatments, he added, he’s witnessed the fact that oncology nurses listen, care and are nurturing and patient.
“You are all extraordinary healers, and we want to recognize each and every one of you, your colleagues and your peers,” added event hostess Kristie L. Kahl, associate editorial director for CURE® and its sister publication Oncology Nursing News.