Debra Loacker: Changing lives one patient at a time
Debra Loacker’s long career in oncology nursing did not include cancer survivorship until relatively recently. “What made me interested in survivorship is wanting to know what was the outcome of all the treatments we have given over the years, what happened to all those patients I met along the way,” she said. “I love that this job focuses on wellness and quality of life.”
Loacker, a registered nurse, joined the Survivorship Program in March 2009, the latest move in a career at the University of Washington and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance oncology programs that began in 1980. Prior to joining the Survivorship Program Loacker was charge nurse for the SCCA’s general oncology clinic. During her tenure there she helped open the Medical Oncology Survivorship Team (MOST) clinic. She became interested in working in the area of survivorship so when a nursing position was created in the Survivorship Program, “I “jumped on board.”
Her primary role is creating the treatment summary for each patient visit to the program. She also supports the nurse practitioners by providing lab and test results after the clinic visit as well as answering phone calls. She also attends and speaks at patient education events to spread the word about the importance of survivorship care.
Most of her day is spent reading patients’ medical records to help prepare the Survivorship Program patient appointments.
Having a dedicated program for cancer survivors is important, she feels. “Although research tells us that most patients do well, some of the patients struggle with serious physical, emotional, psychological and sociological issues following their cancer treatments,” she said. “Prior to the development of survivorship programs, they didn't know who to turn to for help addressing these issues. I can't tell you the number of patients I talk with both on the phone and at patient events whose lives have been changed by the opportunity to come to the Survivorship clinic.”