Johns Hopkins Pediatric Oncology Nursing
The Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center’s pediatric oncology nursing staff is committed to delivering extraordinary family-centered, professional nursing care, responding to the physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs of patients and their families across the continuum of care. Through patient and family education, patient advocacy, and the incorporation of evidence-based practice, pediatric oncology nurses set out to foster an environment of trust and mutual respect in which to provide safe, comprehensive care and promote healing.
Nurse manager Lisa Fratino believes that nurses play an important role in the care of pediatric oncology patients. Each patient is assigned a primary inpatient and outpatient nurse at diagnosis, plus three associates. Those nurses oversee the patient’s care during the months and years of treatment, forging a deep and insightful relationship. “It makes good sense to the patients and their families, and it is fulfilling for the nurses,” says Fratino. “Their voices are at the front lines, and their advocacy for the patient is key. To watch that in action at rounds and on the unit with other members of the professional care team is amazing.”
“The nurses work as a cohesive group,” she says. ”That’s what makes us successful. They come together as the acuity of care for our patients’ waxes and wanes, and support each other when an individual nurse needs an extra pair of hands or is struggling with the emotional demands of our work. The nurses have chosen this unique environment. You can’t ‘dabble’ with pediatric oncology; you have to make your life here, professionally.”
Fratino makes this clear when she is interviewing prospective pediatric oncology nurses. She looks for ways to create the space for her nurses to shine and is clearly thrilled as she watches nurses she has hired grow professionally and personally, honing their practice and branching off into special interests. “Retention is strong, even in this setting of hard physical and emotional work and sometimes great sadness. If our nurses move on, it’s usually to develop their oncology skills further.”
“Nurses live and breathe patients’ care over a course of many months. They know their patients and are great ‘historians,’ capturing a picture of the patient over weeks, sometimes months, from the 24-hour care they give at the bedside. The nurse is the constant. If a patient or parent has a question or a concern for the care team, it will often come via the nurse.”
Goal setting and decision-making are often collaborative, as is the work being done to improve patient care and the patient’s experience. “A physician, a nurse and a social worker are co-chairing a working group looking at how best to care for adolescent and young adult patients,” says Fratino. Each brings a different expertise, skill set and perspective, and the results from their collaboration are significantly greater than the sum of their parts.
To talk more about pediatric oncology nursing, including the special skills and personality it requires, we have asked several of our nurses — some new, some seasoned — how they came to this work and what sustains them as they grow in their role. The following profiles tell their stories.
Pediatric Oncology Nursing Staff
- Carlene Edwards
- Juliette Lee Fowler
- Mary Holuba
- Thomas Killmond
- Sarah Poggi
- Nancy Robey
- Kathy Ruble
- Clifton Thornton