By Lindsey Garner
When our patients undergo treatment, the focus is on them and their needs. But cancer often affects the entire family, especially caregivers. To help, we have employees and programs that provide support to those who care for cancer patients.
"I've made a special effort in my role to acknowledge caregivers and how tough it can be to take care of somebody you love," Traci Newsom says.
A social work counselor at MD Anderson in the Bay Area, Newsom serves as an outlet for caregivers to share their feelings and the challenges they face.
Caregivers often neglect their own needs when a loved one is diagnosed with cancer. Because MD Anderson values family-centered care, we have employees like Newsom who are devoted to supporting our patients' supporters -- ensuring they never feel alone or lost.
Helping caregivers find balance
Caregivers experience an interesting combination of facing challenging duties and savoring precious moments with their loved ones.
Recently in Support Category
By Lindsey Garner
By Laura Harvey
Everyone loves a parade. And there's something special about the processions of patients that occur on Floor 18 (G18) in the Main Building four times a year -- at Easter, Independence Day, Halloween and Christmas.
"The tradition started here long before I did," says Katherine Beetle, clinical nurse on G18, where most of the patients have had stem cell transplants. "They're immunosuppressed and sometimes very sick, and that can be isolating. The parades offer a chance for them and their families to be creative making and decorating their IV poles. Hopefully it takes their minds off being here."
Reminding patients that they're not alone
Staff from the floor participates in preparations and also during the events. You might see doctors, physical therapists and even staff, patients and caregivers from other floors getting involved with crafts and marching in the parades around the G18 hallway.
By Carol Bryce
When Annamma Thomas began working here in 1981 as a nurse in the ICU, her colleagues soon dubbed her "Little Anna" to distinguish her from the other two "Annas" who worked on the same floor. Today she's affectionately called "Anna T." by her co-workers in our Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU).
Whatever you call Thomas, you only have to spend a few moments with her to be inspired by her enthusiasm. She's been here for 33 years, and this 4-foot-11-inch dynamo loves her job.
Thomas' co-worker, Clinical Nurse Joyace Ussin, confirms Thomas' positive attitude.
"Anna's always happy, laughing and keeping everyone focused on our most important task: taking excellent care of our patients," Ussin says.
A model for other nurses
Thomas' real passion is sharing her knowledge with her co-workers. She's mentored more than 40 nurses in the 14 years she's worked in the PACU, Ussin reports.
When it comes to teaching others, Thomas' philosophy is simple.
"I share what I know. But I don't criticize anyone," she says. "I do lots of mentoring because I feel like I can teach nurses simple things, like how to make sure patients are comfortable."
By Lindsey Garner
Did you know that MD Anderson has its own post office? Located in the Main Building, the post office serves patients, visitors and employees. It's also where patient and Main Building employee mail is delivered and sorted by a team of three mail clerks.
From letters to parcels and interoffice to international mail, MD Anderson has 24 employees working behind the scenes to ensure that more than 268,000 pieces of mail each month are transported and received. Most of our mail clerks and transportation representatives had long careers in the mail industry prior to coming here, either with the U.S. Postal Service or in mailrooms at other organizations.
How our mail gets sorted
By 7:30 a.m., Mondays through Fridays, large bins of mail are picked up from the post office and brought to the mailroom at an MD Anderson facility offsite from our main hospital campus.
A team of eight mail clerks sorts the mail into bins for each building.
By Victoria Nahas
When my mom was diagnosed with appendix cancer, I was told not to let her see me in pain or cry for her. And so I followed that advice. The last thing I wanted to do was make my mom feel like she was a burden, or make her think about something that wasn't already bothering her. I didn't want to burden her either.
But throughout her appendix cancer treatment, I learned that allowing myself to lean on her was one way I could be there for her.
My mom's appendix cancer treatment
After my mom was diagnosed with appendix cancer in 2009, she was given 12-18 months to live. I was devastated. Cancer was something that happened to other people. Not my mom. She is my best friend. I still need her here.
By Bonnie Butler
Teaching in MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital school has helped me fall deeper in love with the art of education. I owe this to each child and family with whom I have had the pleasure of working. After all, they have truly inspired me and showed me what it means to be passionate about education, what it means to teach and to be taught.
Teaching pediatric cancer patients is my dream job
If someone had told me a year ago that I would have this job, I would have said they were lying. For me, teaching children at a hospital was always a dream, I knew that working with children facing an aggressive disease who still desired to learn new things would be especially rewarding. But I had convinced myself that it always would be.
I used to be a public school elementary educator. But after the birth of our second child in 2013, my husband and I decided that I would stay home with our children. So, with a leap of faith, I resigned from the school district that I had been so committed to for the past six years.
Not long after that -- truly out of nowhere -- I learned MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital was hiring a pediatric school English as a Second Language coordinator. I thought, "There's absolutely no way that I'll get this job, but I'll go ahead and apply."
In my eyes, this was a once in a lifetime opportunity, and here I am today, blessed beyond measure to work with amazing fellow educators, pediatric cancer patients and their families.
By Traci Newsom, Social Work Counselor
A cancer diagnosis affects people differently. However, every cancer patient has one thing in common: At some point during their journey, they undoubtedly experience stress. As a social work counselor here at MD Anderson, it's part of my job to help alleviate some of that stress. I do this by enabling patients to better focus on themselves and their actual care.
What our social workers do
People expect to see medical providers at their appointments. But they often forget to ask about or are not aware of the additional support available to them. This support may include counseling services for patients and family members, providing resources specifically designed for children dealing with a parent's cancer diagnosis through the KIWI program (Children's Lives Include Moments of Bravery), or advanced care planning such as assistance completing a Medical Power of Attorney or Living Will. Social Work services are available to patients receiving care at the Main Campus in the Medical Center as well as our other locations in Katy, Memorial City, Bay Area, The Woodlands and Sugar Land.
As a social worker, I can enter the picture at any point in a patient's cancer journey depending upon their needs and concerns. However, I often begin working with patients when they receive a cancer diagnosis. At that point, most are feeling particularly overwhelmed and confused.
By Mary Brolley
While the world's largest medical center and the city that surrounds it sleep, our specialized Nocturnal Program team is hard at work.
The Nocturnal Program team tends to medical oncology patients, those just out of surgery or in the ICU, pediatric patients, and those admitted from our Emergency Center.
"Just because the day shift has gone home, it doesn't mean the patient won't spike a fever or have some other issue," says Angela Cone, program manager for the Nocturnal Program.
"Our team takes care of any issues patients have during our watch," she says.
Members of our Nocturnal Program team are specially trained to anticipate the needs of patients at night.
The team also includes a group of moonlighting physicians who cover even more hours, providing 24-hour care on weekends and holidays as well as overnight. Most are advanced practice nurses and physician assistants. All are credentialed and have privileges at MD Anderson. They are residents, fellows, and physicians on staff here and at other hospitals.
Improving care for cancer patients
Before the Nocturnal Program's launch in 2011, Hematology/Oncology fellows had been responsible for the care of our inpatients at night. As MD Anderson grew and the number of inpatient beds increased, the need to add to the after-hours team arose.
By Trevor Mitchell
After receiving a stem cell transplant, Judy Waxman faced a long road to recovery. She knew she would have to rely on her inner strength to stay motivated. But it was a small incentive she found through our inpatient stem cell transplant program that made the biggest difference during her hospitalization.
Colorful bandanas and strips of paper from an incentive-based mobility initiative called the Motivated and Moving Program kept Waxman encouraged.
The Motivated and Moving Program encourages patients to engage in physical activity and structured exercise three times a day by using an incentive-based model that uses stars, flags and other indicators to mark patients' progress. The program has become a catalyst for combating cancer-related fatigue and accelerating positive outcomes.
"No matter how tired I was, the Motivated and Moving Program was a reminder to want to improve each day," Judy says. "It created a positive environment that lifted my spirits and helped me focus on my health by challenging me to get out of my hospital room to exercise daily."
How the program keeps patients motivated and moving
Before beginning any physical activity, patients participating in the program obtain a colored piece of paper called a marker from a unit staff member. After finishing the activity, the patients document on the marker the time they just spent outside the room. The markers are then placed on the patients' doors.
By Lindsay Lewis
When Susanne Stanley started working at MD Anderson nearly two years ago, she never imagined the challenges associated with cancer recovery.
For many patients, recovering from surgery, chemotherapy and radiation -- or some combination of the three -- is a long and difficult process, says Stanley, an occupational therapist in Rehabilitation Services.
"Our job is to help patients function again, and find the strength and motivation to resume their lives."
Helping patients return to daily living
Stanley is one of more than 100 clinical professionals and support staff that make up Rehabilitation Services, which offers physical and occupational therapy to more than 10,000 inpatients and outpatients a year.
By Lindsey Garner
"We laugh, cut up, wear costumes, sing and dance," Ron Richards says.
This may sound like a variety show performance, but it's just another day on the job for Richards, a transportation representative responsible for driving carts back and forth on the skybridge between Mays Clinic and the Main Building.
Ten transportation representatives help our patients, caregivers, visitors, volunteers and employees get where they need to go. But they also often strike up conversations and friendships along the way.
"It's amazing that in a short two-minute window, people can connect in such a sincere way," says Karen Mooney, executive director in Facilities Management. "If we had different people driving the carts, it wouldn't work. It starts with that team."
Helping patients take their minds off cancer
"Every person who gets on the cart expects a ride from point A to point B in a timely manner," Richards says. But that's not enough for Richards and his fellow cart drivers.
Their goal: to help people get their minds off why they're actually here. And each driver has different approaches for making this happen.
By Cara Sorrell
At 21 years old, I was enjoying the new sense of independence that college brought. But this newfound freedom and self-sufficiency began to crumble not long after my biphasic synovial sarcoma diagnosis.
The unsung hero of my sarcoma treatment
My sarcoma treatment required surgery at a local hospital in Missouri, 25 rounds of radiation at MD Anderson and a second surgery at MD Anderson. This surgery lasted more than 6 hours. The tumor bed was removed, along with some lymph nodes, some muscle from my leg and a large area around the initial location of the tumor. Fatty tissue from my stomach was removed and placed near my right hip to fill in the hole. In addition, some muscle was removed from my stomach and used to replace that which was removed from my leg.
After my surgery, I was unable to clean myself after using the restroom, change my clothes or bathe on my own. I was extremely limited in what I could do. Growing more independent at college had been a great feeling. However, being in the hospital and not even being able to clean up after using the restroom was degrading, to say the least.
But one nurse helped me with this. I met Cheryl Manatring shortly after my surgery. We connected right away.
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- How we help cancer caregivers
- Patients strut their stuff during holiday parades
- How a PACU nurse helps our patients, one smile at a time
- What happens when you send a letter to a patient or your care team?
- Appendix cancer caregiver on learning to open up
- How our Children's Cancer Hospital school helps our pediatric patients
- How social work counselors help our cancer patients
- Night watch: Our Nocturnal Program teams work dusk 'til dawn
- How we're helping stem cell transplant patients stay active
- How Rehabilitation Services helps our cancer patients
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