At LVMC: Hematology-Oncology, the registered nurses see themselves as patient advocates. With more than 1,000 cancer patients treated by Dr. Donna Walker, those nurses help coordinate the myriad aspects of care needed for each individual patient. At the center of patient care at Hematology-Oncology, RNs Kari Cox, Jessica Lopez, and Jae Dial are celebrated in May for Oncology Nursing Month.
Oncology nurses review each patient’s health history; monitor their physical and emotional status; track laboratory and pathology tests; administer medications and treatments; work as a liaison between physician and patient; advise on managing symptoms and so much more.
Lompoc Valley Medical Center (LVMC)’s oncology nurses will tell you it’s mentally and emotionally demanding – but equally rewarding.
“We deal with different emotions -- happiness, sadness,” explains RN Jessica Lopez, an oncology nurse since 2008. “We see our patients through their ups and downs. Our patients become our friends. We have the privilege of having them in our lives for years. Our job can be very rewarding when we see the happiness of our patients when they are cured or in remission. But we also deal with sadness and grief. We cry alongside our patients and their family when there are no other options. Being able to experience all these emotions is something I think other practices don’t get to experience.”
Jessica didn’t think she would become an oncology nurse after a difficult experience with a pediatric cancer patient during her schooling. But she was convinced to pursue it, and she now says being in that discipline is what she likes most about nursing.
“We take care of the patients as a whole: mind, body and soul,” she says. “You have skin cancer, brain cancer, you have different tumors, lymphomas. It affects their whole body and their emotions. We see a person or patient from anger, to happiness to sadness. We see all the emotions. Because we’re there from the beginning to the end – either of treatment or life.”
She initially became a nurse, she said, so she could help people and see them return to health, and “see how amazing human beings are.”
Lompoc native Kari Cox has been a registered nurse at LVMC since 2009, and in oncology for five years. She enjoys her job, she said, because she likes being able to comfort her patients and make them laugh.
She knew she wanted to be a nurse, but because of personal circumstances, she wasn’t sure she’d be able to follow through. When she was in her 20s, her mother was diagnosed with cancer.
“Going with her to appointments and treatments allowed me to witness the love and compassion her nurses gave her,” the 1993 Cabrillo High School graduate said. “I wanted to be able to help and comfort other humans dealing with the sometimes tragic news. Having that personal experience of losing someone so close to you I believe has helped me become a better nurse … I don’t think I’d want to be anywhere else.”
Jae Dial has been with LVMC: Hematology-Oncology since January and said she appreciates getting to know her patients and their families, learning new skills and being exposed to different aspects of medicine.
She became a nurse, she said, to help patients and their family members with medication administration and personal healing, by “offering my time, listening and offering support and the comfort of an embrace through difficult times.”
Oncology nursing is fluid, with the circumstances changing frequently, she says. The relationships with patients become familiar.
“There are patients we treat for years and there are patients we treat for short periods,” Jae says. “they are all unique but each patient is treated like we would our own family. I want people to know when they are treated at LVMC: Hematology-Oncology, the patients are treated with utmost respect, honor, and dignity.”