Q&A with Katie Battern, Oncology Nurse at Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center in Illinois
Katie Battern, RN, BSN, OCN, earned her BSN from Saint Louis University in 2001. She is currently working toward her FNP at Loyola University. Battern is a nurse at Loyola University Health System's Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center in Maywood, Illinois, specializing in oncology.
Q: What motivated you to become a nurse?
A: I think nurses are very special people. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and perseverance to become one, but it takes all of that and more to be one as well. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing you've helped someone understand their situation a little better, and to know that they're better equipped to handle whatever comes next.
Q: How did you decide you wanted to work in an acute care setting?
A: I've done inpatient, outpatient, days, nights, pediatrics, and adults. You never know what I'll do next! Right now, I love what I do in the Cancer Center, but that's the great thing about being a nurse: if you change your mind, opportunity awaits!
Q: What do you enjoy most about working at Loyola?
A: It's been one of the best opportunities I've had as a nurse. We are a very specialized center that has tons of specialty services. We have surgical oncologists, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists, oncology nurses, social workers, dietitians, certified mastectomy fitters, cosmetologists, etc. I mean, you name it, we've got it!
It's such a great atmosphere for our patients, and since cancer is such a complicated and multi-faceted disease, it takes a whole team to treat this patient population. I believe that education is power, and the more informed our patients are, the better equipped they are to handle the complex treatments that are involved with their care.
Q: Typically, what are your day-to-day responsibilities?
A: That's the good thing about this job. You never know what you're going to encounter on a daily basis. It never gets boring, that's for sure. I typically deal with newly diagnosed patients. We do some phone triage, see what it is that they've had done and what their experience has been, and let them know what we need in order to make a decision on what treatment modalities would be best for them.
Once they bring in their records, we look at them, and see what treatments would be appropriate according to the disease state and set them up to see the physicians in our multidisciplinary clinics.
Once the initial appointments are over, we set up any other tests/procedures that need to be completed and do all of the education with the patients in regards to "what happens next." When we are finally ready to construct a treatment plan, the coordinator makes sure that everything goes as planned, that all of the education is completed (and that the patient understands), and we give them the tools they need to embark on their treatment journey. It's an ongoing process and every day is something new and different.
Q: What kinds of patients do you see?
A: I am the primary coordinator of the Thoracic and GI multidisciplinary clinics. I typically see people with lung masses that are either not yet diagnosed, or newly diagnosed lung cancers, thymomas, colorectal cancers, esophageal cancer, gastric cancer, and pancreatic cancer.
Q: What are the greatest challenges you face as a nurse in acute care?
A: It's never easy watching someone hear life changing news. Telling someone they have cancer has to be one of the worst things in the world. It never gets any easier.
Q: What do you like most about being a nurse?
A: I love the patients, as well as the teamwork and collaboration that it takes to care for them.
Q: Are you currently involved with any special projects?
A: I am working on a Universalized Patient Binder that should help (hopefully) make everyone's transition to the Cancer Center, services, and treatments a little smoother. It's up to marketing now. Hopefully, we'll be able to start handing it out in a couple months!
Q: What is the most rewarding part about working with oncology patients?
A: When a patient says, "thank you," or when I can turn tears into laughter, then, I know I've done my job and that they feel at least a little better about whatever path they're headed down next.
Q: How has working in this specialty helped you to grow professionally?
A: I've learned more in this position than I have anywhere else. Being in graduate school and working at the same time really helps put two and two together when dealing with patients and patient care.
Q: What advice do you have for others thinking of entering oncology?
A: You'll never regret it. Just ask my Aunt Tammy. She's been doing it for over 20 years, and now is a breast cancer survivor as well! Oncology patients are a very special group of individuals. They'll change you forever.
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