This past September I received my first x-geva injection at the Touro Infirmary Cancer Infusion Center. Several things about the Center immediately stood out to me. First, as I sat in the reception area waiting for my appointment, I noticed that patients exiting from the treatment area most often offered a general greeting to the assembled patients and receptionists – beyond that duly mandated as part of basic Southern manners. Second, there seemed to be a real air serenity in this place where folks came for chemotherapy. After entering the treatment area on my first visit I heard the staff singing Happy Birthday to a patient hooked up for their chemo treatment. But what stands out to me most in my last 10 months of Infusion Center visits is the friendliness, care, and concern consistently demonstrated by the staff, particularly the Registered Nurses.
Without exception, the Infusion Center RNs are highly skilled and compassionate individuals. On my first visit this past September, as a newly diagnosed stage 4 cancer patient, I was confused, had many questions, and really did not know what to expect. Erin was assigned my case for that visit. She picked up on my confusion and anxiety and expertly responded and directed me on my questions and concerns. Whereas the Infusion Center is a busy work environment, there is always room for small talk and personal updates. For example, Erin and I share a common interest in Latin America. We discussed my work in the north central Andes of Peru. She has a brother and sister who are spending part of their lives doing educational and social development in rural Chile and Peru. This past January she traveled to Chile for a visit. I was not surprised that Erin and her siblings all are engaged in careers in service to others.
I recently came to know another group of RNs at Touro in the Cardiac Rehab Fitness Center. Following my recent heart attack, I am now scheduled for three sessions per week. Center patients range from those who appear in pretty good shape to those on walkers with oxygen supplies for whom every physical movement is an effort. The five RNs who run the Cardiac Rehab Center are experts in their field and incredibly supportive and engaging with all the patients. As in the Infusion Center, when checking in, taking vitals, and filling out paperwork, the banter among the patients and staff is abundant and contagious.
In addition to the Infusion and Cardiac Centers, I have been treated by about 15 other RNs and dietitians at Touro in the past year. Without diminishing the role of Touro’s many other technicians, anesthesiologists, and doctors from whom I have also received treatment, my most memorable experiences are with the RN staff.
Nurses often appear considered in secondary roles and not thanked as they should by their patients. Typically, medical conversations skip straight to the doctors. Now I make a special effort to scan their name badges to remember their names as they remember mine, an express a strong attitude of gratitude for their care. The only other person I remember talking to me about hospital nurses they encountered was my maternal grandmother. But then too, as a youth of 5 or 6, my Grandmother introduced me to the bus driver who took us downtown for my annual birthday lunch, and the elevator operator in the garment factory where she worked. Another lesson learned from my Grandma Kurtz!
So, the point of all of this is to express my gratitude to the exceptional nursing staff at Touro Infirmary, New Orleans, and to encourage readers to make an extra effort to thank those who provide them with care.