Growing up, I always knew I wanted to help people. When I was in college, I considered physical therapy and other careers in the medical field, but it wasn’t until I found out my grandfather had been a nurse that I took it seriously as a career choice. My grandfather was someone I always looked up to, and when he suggested it, I decided to give it a try. I got a job as a nurse assistant and immediately fell in love with it after experiencing the patient interaction.
I wanted a career where I could help people. And helping people means getting to know them, caring about the whole person, getting to know their family and instilling hope when possible.
My wife is a cancer survivor and a patient at Roswell Park, so I was always familiar with Roswell from that perspective before I started working here. I knew they were very patient-centered, and after spending over a decade working at another hospital, I decided I wanted to grow my career and pursue a leadership role so that I could help as many people as possible. Roswell seemed like the perfect fit.
I’ve been at Roswell Park for three years now. As a clinical nurse manager, I’m in charge of the general operations on 6 West. Being a manager comes with a lot of responsibilities — helping with development, troubleshooting, making sure my staff has what they need to do their job to the best of their ability, and making sure everything on the floor runs as smoothly as possible. I’m always busy, and there is always something that can be done to help us improve, but our patients — their treatment, mental well-being, and their families — are what is most important.
One particular day, a 19-year-old patient, Michaela, was in for her second round of chemotherapy. I heard that she was pretty depressed because she was starting to lose her hair, as most young women would be.
Never miss another Cancer Talk blog!
Sign up to receive our monthly Cancer Talk e-newsletter.Sign up!
I went home and talked about it with my wife, who also received her first cancer diagnosis when she was 19 years old. She also said the hardest part of her treatment was losing her hair, and while she almost wanted to give up at times, knowing that she had a niece on the way was what kept her pushing through the difficult times, because she wanted to meet that baby.
I tried to put myself in Michaela’s shoes and went back in the next morning to sit and talk with her. I showed her pictures of my wife, when she was 19 and without hair, and pictures of her now, in her 30s with our two beautiful children. I wanted her to know that yes, this is hard, and yes, you may struggle, but you have a future and you will get through this. I could have been doing a million other things on the floor that morning, but in that moment, she was what was most important to me, and I needed her to know that she wasn’t just a patient, but a person with a life to get back to and amazing opportunities ahead of her.
I never knew just how much that conversation meant to her until I received the ROSE Award (DAISY award for nurse managers) which was a complete surprise. Nobody goes into the nursing profession for accolades; you do it because you care about people and want to help them. Michaela nominated me for the award and came to the ceremony, which made it extremely special. Knowing that she carried that conversation with her throughout her treatment means so much to me. She is currently in nursing school and is coming back to Roswell to do her internship here.
I’m so proud of her and so grateful to be in a position where I can positively impact the lives of others. You never know how much you can affect another person, but every day I try to make a connection with our patients and their families in an effort to help them find the same type of hope Michaela did.