"We're there to hold their hands": Roche is October's Nurse of the Month

A group of four women, wearing surgical masks, stand in a hallway. The woman in the middle is holding flowers and a certificate for being named Nurse of the Month for October.

Jessica Roche knew from a young age what she wanted to be when she grew up.

“I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, since middle school,” says Roche, who works on 5 East in the bone marrow transplant unit. “I have an aunt that works as a nurse. She was one of my inspirations to pursue nursing. I just always wanted to take care of people and make a difference in the world.”

She didn’t always know she wanted to come to Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center, however. “I never would have thought I’d work in oncology. If you had asked me when I was in nursing school, I would’ve said that I’d be working in maternity! But once I spent time here, during my clinical experience, I realized it’s not what you think, not at all. The fulfillment that I’ve found here is much more than I could have ever imagined.”

Roche has been at Roswell Park for five years – as of October 20 – and is our Nurse of the Month for October.

“Jessica has been a dedicated nurse on the Transplant and Cellular Therapy Floor since 2016. She is the nurse that you always hope is going to be there when you are working,” says Renee De Wald, MS, BSN, RN, CMSRN, the clinical nurse manager on the floor. “Being a strong patient advocate, team player and providing exceptional care to a complex patient population is second nature to her. She has an extremely positive and calming energy, which is invaluable during these hard times and is always there to help. She embodies all that it is to be a nurse and truly enjoys the work that she does.”

Roche credits her team for the happiness she feels at work

“It’s a great team,” she says. “You get to shine a light on people in their darkest times. We connect with people when they’re at their most vulnerable. We’re there to hold their hands.”

Being recognized for her work was a humbling moment, one that was unexpected and for which she is grateful. “I want to share the award with everyone I work with on my unit,” Roche says. “It’s been a really tough past couple of years and, with the chaos of the pandemic, it’s very easy to be overwhelmed. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that cancer has not taken a backseat to COVID. We have to remember that.”

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She’s proud of how Roswell Park and her colleagues responded to the added stress of the pandemic. “We’re so prepared for preventing infection that when COVID came around, it was scary because there was a lot unknown about the virus but, as far as preventive measures, we were on top of it. I felt totally safe having my patients here.”

When she’s not working for her BMT patients, Roche is a busy mom of two young daughters. She’s also working on furthering her education, working to earn her Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree and wants to go into the nurse practitioner program at Daemen College. “I want to further my role in healthcare,” she says. “I would be honored to continue my career at Roswell Park.”