CHOP: Kristen Marra
Why did you want to pursue the fellowship? Since I was in middle school, I knew I wanted to eventually become a pediatric oncology nurse, specifically at CHOP, because that’s where my younger cousin was treated for her cancer. Throughout my cousin’s journey, I was inspired by the role of the nurses and the differences they had made for my family. I was also inspired by CHOP’s incredible culture as a hospital, because ultimately, CHOP saved my cousin’s life. When applying to summer externship positions a junior nursing student, the Flynn Fellowship stood out to me the most, it sounded like the ideal opportunity to achieve my future career goals. Additionally, I learned that this program is catered to help shape aspiring oncology nurses – with specialized oncology training from the best nurses in the country. Thus, ever since hearing about the Fellowship, it became my goal to obtain this position.
What was your EBP project? I chose to complete my EBP project on the early implementation of pediatric palliative care services. The question that drove my literature search is “In pediatric oncology patients and their families, does early introduction of palliative care at the time of high-risk cancer diagnosis impact quality of life?” I found significant evidence in the literature that introducing pediatric palliative care at the time of a high-risk cancer diagnosis, or shortly after, will improve the quality of life for patients and their families.
What did you see and do? Before the program even began, I had access to immerse myself in two different cancer courses, several books, and a documentary – all regarding oncology, end of life, and palliative care. These resources expanded my knowledge in oncology, which I did not get much exposure to in nursing school.
When I physically began the program at CHOP, it was far beyond everything I hoped for. I was exposed to all aspects of oncology – general chemotherapy, radiation, central lines, bone marrow transplants, side effects and symptom management, survivorship, the outpatient clinic, fertility preservation, and palliative care. I was able to work closely with patients and their families and with each interaction, I felt so prideful and fulfilled that I was making a difference. Each shift, I was paired one on one with a preceptor, where I learned a tremendous amount about the role of the pediatric oncology nurse and gained invaluable hands-on experience. Every preceptor I worked with was so inspiring, passionate, talented, and competent, and I went above and beyond to teach me. We also had weekly “lunch and learns,” which professionals who pursued all different oncology nursing specialties (nurse practitioners, nursing education, clinical nurse specialists, etc.) taught us about their role in cancer care.
Also, I created such a special bond with the other five Fellows and genuinely believe that they have become my lifelong friends. We had weekly debriefing sessions with the five of us (took place before/after our lunch and learns), where got to share our experiences and support one another.
What did you enjoy the most? Overall, the opportunity to make a difference in the patients and their families was the most rewarding part of these 10 weeks and I am so thankful to this program for allowing me to do so.
The shadow days were valuable because I got to shadow different NPs and see these different oncology nursing specialties firsthand and really experience the various career paths this field of nursing has to offer.
What advice might you have for someone considering it for next year? The application process may seem overwhelming, but please do not hesitate to reach out to the upperclassmen and nursing faculty with questions.