Hutch News Stories

Rewarding excellence in patient care

Angela Forbes, a nurse who cares for children with cancer, might be expected to feel weary and sad at the end of a long workday.

Instead, she considers her job at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance unit at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center to be a privilege and a pleasure.

"I would do this for free," she said. "I love coming to work. The families I work with have given me much more than I can ever give to them."

Forbes, and her equally dedicated colleagues, Ian Anderson of the Alliance outpatient clinic and Mary Sikma at the University of Washington Medical Center, were honored last month for their commitment to patient care as recipients of the 9th annual Steinberg nursing scholarships.

Each was presented with the $1,500 scholarship, which they can use to support their continuing education, at a ceremony May 15 at Gilda's Club in Seattle. Twelve previous Steinberg winners were also honored at the event.

Since 1995, the scholarships have been given to Fred Hutchinson nurses through the Harold and John Steinberg Memorial Nursing Scholarship Fund, established by the Steinberg family of Atlanta, Ga. John Steinberg had two marrow transplants at the center before he died in 1994. His father Harold, diagnosed with multiple myeloma, died of a brain aneurysm in 1981. With the creation of the Alliance, scholarship eligibility was expanded to include nurses who work for any of the three partner organizations

All three winners said that passion for their work springs from contact with the patients and families they meet each day, many of whom spend many weeks under their care.

Passion for patients

Anderson, who has worked as an oncology nurse for 25 years and has been a member of Fred Hutchinson's bone-marrow transplant program since 1995, said his work with cancer patients has helped him grow personally and professionally.

"Caring for oncology patients lets me use everything I've learned in life, not just in nursing school," he said.

He also expressed gratitude to his co-workers and his institution.

"I feel I'm appreciated by my peers and my organization. It's an honor to be part of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, which promotes and rewards excellence."

Colleague Rosemary Ford, registered nurse manager at the Alliance, said that Anderson stands out for his ability to treat patients as individuals.

"The patients love him," she said. "He's exceptionally skilled at working with people who are going through a very difficult time and makes patients feel they are part of his extended family, even sending them holiday cards."

Ford also cited Anderson's ability to work with patients who feel challenged or overwhelmed by the transplant procedure, which can be long and filled with side effects.

"He is a real advocate for the patients and wants everything to be done right for the patient. This sometimes means having to help a patient understand that he or she is an integral part of the research team, even when the going gets rough."

Sikma, who cares for Alliance and UW Medical Center oncology patients, said she is inspired to excellence by her patients and their families.

"The patients are extraordinary people," she said. "I learn so much about human nature by working with them. They are going through tough struggles and can still smile and appreciate life. This job helps me be a better person."

Nurse colleagues and nominators Jana Ghosn and Susan Theiler described Sikma as a "gifted care-giver with an incredible bedside manner who creates an environment that is comforting and supportive for oncology patients and their families. She strives daily to bring her best to patient care."

' Caring and amazing work ethic'

Forbes, whose job at Children's was her first after graduating from nursing school, is known to her peers as someone with a "caring and amazing work ethic," said colleague Alison Jones.

"Angie made a conscious decision when she began work here to spend as much time as possible with the kids," she said. "If she has spare time, she'll plays cards with them or read with them. Parents come back years later and ask for her."

Mindi Chouinard, a nursing education specialist at the Alliance, described the award ceremony as an event that unites the nursing staff from the three partner institutions. The ceremony was the first of what will become an annual Alliance nursing-education conference, gatherings instituted to foster interaction and provide training to facilitate the changes brought about by the formation of the Alliance.

"The success of our efforts really came through at this event," she said. "This is truly a group of nurses working together to provide excellence in oncology care."

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