“When I tell people I’m an oncology nurse, they often say, ‘That must be so difficult,’” Kerri Delcimmuto BSN, OCN says. “But actually, our infusion center is such a positive environment. There are moments that are difficult – it’s certainly not always easy – but it’s actually very uplifting here, with lots of laughter and enthusiasm.”
There are eight TriHealth Cancer Institute Infusion Centers located across the Cincinnati area. Although chemotherapy is the primary treatment offered, the centers also provide IV antibiotic therapy and infusions to treat anemia.
Amy Hill RN floats among the centers. An oncology nurse for 14 of the 15 years she’s been an RN, Hill says she got into the field by accident. She initally took a job in Richmond, Va. because of the convenience of the hours at the time. “Then I fell in love with the patients,” she says. “Oncology is where I feel I can use my skills to really help people.”
Amy has been in the field long enough to see the positive effects of breakthrough drugs for some breast cancer patients that “give people more time, and with a better quality of life.”
Rewards and Challenges
Both Delcimmuto and Hill cite the bond that develops between the oncology nurse and patient during a course of chemotherapy. Delcimmuto stresses the benefits for nurses, patients and families of having the same nurse work with the patient over the treatment span: “You really develop relationships that way. You celebrate the victories with them and mourn the difficult times with them.”
“This is the most inspiring job I can imagine,” Delcimmuto says. “I wouldn’t want to do anything different. Helping people fight this disease certainly makes me re-focus on what’s important in life.”
Increasing Numbers, Standardized Healing Environments
In 2012, Delcimmuto remembers that a normal day at the MediCenter infusion center meant 15 patients. Now, it’s more like 35 to 40 patients per day. She attributes the increase to more referrals from growing numbers of TriHealth primary care physicians and specialists.
Greater demand has resulted in more infusion centers and sparked an effort to standardize the environment with a similar look and feel, says Julie Van Curen BSN, OCN, senior nurse manager, TriHealth Cancer Institute. That includes changing from a wide open room of treatment chairs to more of a circular pod with groups of four patient chairs, each with its own heat, TV, USB port and a curtain for privacy.
Julie explains that the focus on consistent design helps patients. “Not every infusion center is open five days a week, so some patients go to different centers for convenience. We want to provide a familiar healing environment for them wherever they seek treatment.”