Rush University Cancer Center in Chicago, IL, is well known for providing patients with outstanding cancer care, including immunotherapies, targeted therapies, and minimally invasive surgical options. As one of the country’s most comprehensive cancer centers, it offers a wide range of services, with the goal of guiding patients and their families through each step of the cancer care journey. These include the latest anticancer treatments provided at one of its clinics, radiation oncology services, an outpatient infusion center, and a supportive oncology program where individuals can receive social and emotional support, complementary therapies, nutritional advice, navigation services, and financial counseling.
The Oncology Nurse-APN/PA (TON) recently interviewed Katie Kean, RN, BSN, OCN, Nurse Manager, Clinical Operations-Oncology Infusion, Rush University Cancer Center. In this article, Ms Kean describes her roles and responsibilities at the center, which include preparing for a new outpatient facility. She also discusses the biggest rewards and challenges associated with her job, and what she is currently excited about in the field of oncology.
Ms Kean: I have operational oversight for outpatient infusion services and urgent care at the Chicago location of our cancer center. I manage a team of nearly 60 nurses and medical assistants. Currently, I am engaged in quality initiatives and pilot programs to prepare for our new outpatient cancer center. I am always seeking out ways to leverage technology in a new or different way to optimize our processes.
Another important aspect of my job is ensuring that our patients receive safe, high-quality care that aligns with best practices. We have designed disease-specific infusion nurse teams that work with a team of disease-specific navigators, nurse practitioners, physicians, and pharmacists. This structure ensures that the patient’s care team is comprehensive and is made up of members that really are experts in their specific field.
Ms Kean: The biggest reward of my job is having the privilege of working alongside such amazing professionals. We have the most empathetic and compassionate team, and there is a strong feeling of family in our workplace. I have not come across a more dedicated and supportive team of oncology providers who always put the patients first.
Ms Kean: The most challenging aspect of my job is not being able to clone myself so that I can keep up with everything that needs to get done. Staffing shortages remain a big issue in the nursing industry at large, and although we have an amazing team, we could always use even more of the thoughtful, driven people that make our group so effective.
We are actively implementing new tools to help us achieve our goals of providing the best experience for our patients as well as a rewarding and engaging work environment for our team. One of those tools is LeanTaaS’ iQueue for Infusion Centers. Prior to implementing this tool, we were experiencing very unbalanced pod assignments, leading to nurse burnout and patient safety concerns. We deployed iQueue not only to make “fair” assignments for our nurses, but to simultaneously maintain our model of specialized care. iQueue has provided us with more information and data than our previous tools did, and it has helped us tremendously when planning for our new building, collaborating with pharmacy, and advocating for additional nurse resources during budget planning.
Ms Kean: I am always excited to learn more about new and more effective treatment options for patients with cancer. It gives me great satisfaction when we can find ways to improve the side-effect profile of a regimen and offer treatment plans that allow for “quality of life” and not just “quantity of life.” I believe that the field of oncology is very rich with learning opportunities. There is never a dull moment with our patient population. Even when you think you have seen it all, there is something new and exciting that comes up.
Ms Kean: My advice for oncology nurses would be to make sure that they make it a priority to “refill their cup.” Whether it is talking to a loved one, traveling, exercising, or participating in a hobby, it is important for us all to find ways to rest and recharge while working in a fast-paced and sometimes stressful field.
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