Rachel DeVestern, staff nurse for the inpatient unit on the 11th floor of Smilow Cancer Hospital, pursued a nursing career in oncology in part because both her grandmother and father were diagnosed with cancer. Seeing what they both went through, she developed a strong desire to help others going through similar experiences. The patient population that Rachel cares for have hematologic malignancies such as leukemia, lymphoma, and multiple myeloma, and are receiving bone marrow transplants or chemotherapy in order to prepare for a transplant; which is the end goal for most of these patients.
A lot of what Rachel does on a daily basis includes administering stem cells and chemotherapy to patients, as well as managing the side effects of treatment. This entails administering large amounts of blood products and antibiotics. Equally important is the education of patients and families. Rachel recognizes the importance of patient and family centered care and spends time talking with patients and their families about what to expect and self-care measures.
"Mostly families want to know what more they can do to help their loved one. If they are towards end-of-life they want to know what to expect and how they can comfort the patient," Rachel said. "I draw from my own experiences and try to reassure them as much as possible. Thankfully my father is now cancer free, but my grandmother passed away just before I graduated from nursing school."
Recently Rachel received the Virginia Henderson Award, which honors individuals that have made outstanding contributions to nursing in the areas of practice, education, administration, political action, and service. The award stems from a case where Rachel was able to help one family navigate the process of end-of-life care when faced with differing cultural beliefs.
"The experience that all of the nurses on the 11th floor have is amazing. I was so lucky to end up here right out of nursing school. Their mentoring and dedication to their patients has helped me to not only thrive in this field, but to love it," Rachel said.
Rachel's Patient Service Manager, Jill Williams, commented, "I am very proud of Rachel for receiving the Virginia Henderson Award and the care that she gives. The department of nursing has used Virginia Henderson's model of nursing for our practice model. It is a true honor for Rachel to be recognized for her excellent care of our patients."