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Dedicated Advocate Cares for Cancer Patients

Receiving news of a cancer diagnosis often overwhelms patients and families as they deal with a wave of emotions and consider their treatment options.

"Patients and families have so many questions and they need someone to be their guide and advocate," says Maria, RN, BSN, OCN, clinical manager of Memorial Cancer Institute's Leukemia, Lymphoma and Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program at Memorial Hospital West. "I take a very hands-on approach to helping patient families navigate the healthcare system. This is especially important with all the advances and treatment options in cancer care."

With more than a decade of experience in hematology and oncology nursing, Maria first came to Memorial Hospital West three years ago to help start the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Memorial Cancer Institute, the only program in South Florida that provides lifesaving BMT treatment without requiring patients to be hospitalized.

With more than a decade of experience in hematology and oncology nursing, Maria first came to Memorial Hospital West three years ago to help start the Bone Marrow Transplant Program at Memorial Cancer Institute, the only program in South Florida that provides lifesaving BMT treatment without requiring patients to be hospitalized.

Patients and Families Join Team

In developing the program, Maria and her colleagues sought the advice of patient families from other facilities, to get their perspective on what patients and families need most.

"The resounding response from patients and families is that they want to be involved in the decision making when it comes to their cancer care," says Maria. "Our patients always tell me that they don't just feel like a number, they feel like part of our family."

When a patient is identified as a candidate for a transplant, Maria and the medical team meet with the patient and family to discuss the treatment options. Together, they decide the best plan of care for the patient.

"Having worked at other leading healthcare systems, I've never experienced this level of dedication to patient- and family-centered care," says Maria. "Sometimes, that means going the extra mile for families and keeping them in the loop. For example, if a family is unable to be there, I'll call them and give them an update on how the patient is doing. Patients and families are partners in the Memorial care team."

Making a Difference for Families

Unfortunately in oncology, there is not always a happy ending.

"Recently, I had a patient who never made it to transplant," says Maria. "When the medical team approached her about end-of-life care, I was touched at how strong she was. Her biggest fear was for the well-being of her husband and children. It was very hard emotionally, but I was able to give her family the support they needed and help her move on."

For patients who are eligible for a bone marrow transplant, the treatments of high dose chemotherapy can be grueling, but lifesaving.

"Even on the hardest of days, I always have a smile for my patients," says Maria. "I want to be someone who will listen to how they are feeling and what they might need. I want to make a real difference in their Memorial Experience and in their lives."


 

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