Stephanie Kulakowski, RN, OCN, CHPN, BSN, Waterbury
Stephanie Kulakowski, RN, OCN, CHPN, BSN is an Infusion Nurse at the Smilow Cancer Hospital Care Center in Waterbury. Previously, she worked at the Care Center in nearby Torrington for four and a half years, as well as on the 11thfloor of the North Pavilion. Most recently, Stephanie accepted the position of Nurse Coordinator at the Waterbury Care Center.
On most days you can find Stephanie setting up and watching over chemotherapy infusions for patients, as well as teaching patients who are newly diagnosed with cancer about their regimen. This entails talking with the patient in a one-on-one meeting and discussing with them what they can expect in regard to their specific treatment regimen.
"There are times when a patient and their family or spouse are in with the doctor, and they feel embarrassed to ask questions that are very personal, or they shy away from addressing concerns they don't want to bother the doctor with," she explains. "The chemotherapy teaching provides the patient with the opportunity to open up in a private setting. Here, we believe in treating the 'whole patient,' and that starts in these meetings. This establishes a trusting relationship between the nurse and patient, which opens the door to continue conversations throughout the entire time they are receiving treatment with us."
The "whole patient" approach extends to assisting with FMLA paperwork, securing transportation to and from appointments, explaining medications, as well as communicating with nutritionists, social workers, and other providers when needed.
Stephanie has been working as a nurse for over eight years, but she originally started out in the "back of the house" side of oncology - working in the lab and diagnosing cancer as a Cytogeneticist. With a degree in Diagnostic Genetics Sciences, she was performing FISH studies, which maps genetic material in human cells, and can help to detect genetic abnormalities associated with cancer. After four years in the lab, Stephanie, who is a natural people-person, decided to shift paths and become a nurse. She completed an 11-month accelerated nursing program at UConn, and then earned her BS in Nursing. A self-described "science geek who loves biology," she enjoys reading oncology publications in her personal time, particularly those pertaining to research and development.
In the eight years since becoming a nurse, Stephanie has developed a profound love for her patients and the oncology field. She has never looked back and in fact, when she is not spending time with family, running, or gardening, you can find her in New Haven helping out on NP-7 on the weekends.