Senior Nyasia White of Upper Darby, Pa. had an eye opening experience this summer. One of three inaugural Susan D. Flynn Oncology Nursing Fellows at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) this summer, she rotated among various settings across the spectrum of oncology care. “The fellowship was unlike any clinical or nursing experience I have ever participated in,” says Nyasia of her eight-week opportunity.
This oncology nursing externship program—one of about 10 in the country—partners top nursing schools with top hospitals. In this region, it involves a relationship with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) and the schools of nursing at Villanova and Penn.
“The fellowship included so many important fields of nursing and I was exposed to the many different roles that nurses take on in the hospital,” notes Nyasia. “It was enlightening and very necessary to see an environment that encouraged the advancement of nurses.”
Nyasia saw oncology-related surgeries in the operating room, home health in the Philadelphia community, end of life care at Penn Hospice at Rittenhouse, as well as outpatient chemo care, proton therapy and palliative care services at the Perelman Center for Advanced Medicine. Nyasia welcomed the “holistic view of the care received by those with cancer diagnoses. The sacrifices that patients make when having to leave their home and families to receive rounds of chemo never crossed my mind. The high cost of receiving specialized, advanced care at HUP was eye opening but thankfully Penn Medicine offers a variety of services to help patients and families cover some of the expenses.”
Nyasia feels the experience has helped shape her goals. “There is a need for more oncology nurses and I believe that oncology may be a part of my future. Although the specialists that impacted me the most were palliative care nurse practitioners.”
Nyasia explains, “Palliative care is such a necessary part of healthcare services but prior to my fellowship I was unaware of the impact it had on patient's health journey. Therefore, for my evidence-based project that I presented to nursing leadership and key clinical service line staff, I focused on ‘The Importance of Timely End-of- Life Care Conversations.’” Although it focused on hospice care, a branch of palliative care, her presentation did address the importance of palliative care specialists as a whole. (readers may view her presentation slides here ://sdfondp.com/the-importance-of-timely-end-of-life-care-conversations/).
During her summer experience, Nyasia appreciated the support of the HUP nurses, including an assigned mentor who answered questions, assisted as needed with her research project and introduced her to staff during her rotations. She “was able to learn different ways of organizing and prioritizing patient needs and wants on the floor and experienced night shift for the first time.”
Summarizing her eight weeks as a Flynn Fellow, Nyasia explains, “I dealt with my first dying patient and had to truly learn to focus on the patient’s needs and well-being and not entirely on their illness. I learned and successfully practiced various clinical competencies as well as compassionate person-and family-centered care in a variety of settings. I grew as a student and future nurse.” She continues, “It was an all-around uplifting and mind-expanding experience that allowed me to develop the mindset needed to care for any population of patients.”