Posted on November 10th, 2011 by msequeira
“I love my patients.” This is one of the first, among many, heartfelt declarations Olivia Reynolds, RN, makes when speaking about the cancer patients she works with every day at the UNM Cancer Center.
Her patients return the affection. So much so that one special patient took the time to nominate her for Cure magazine’s 2011 Extraordinary Healer Award, given annually by the country’s leading consumer cancer magazine to honor nurses of exceptional “compassion, expertise and helpfulness.” Reynolds is among fewer than 150 oncology nurses nationwide nominated this year by patients and peers.
As a nurse clinical trials coordinator at the UNM Cancer Center, Reynolds’ work with patients starts almost as soon as they receive a cancer diagnosis. She explains the standard of care – the established approach to treatment – for a particular type of cancer, then helps patients explore their options for new and experimental therapies through research studies known as clinical trials. If a patient decides to enroll in a study, Reynolds and her colleagues guide the person through every step of the process. The scope of the work clinical trials coordinators and research nurses do is enormous, and includes everything from demystifying complicated medical terminology, scheduling additional tests and appointments and handling the intensive record keeping associated with clinical trials to emotionally supporting patients and their families, and actually administering therapeutic drugs.
Reynolds is especially suited to handling the disparate parts of her job, having worked not only in nursing, but also in the administrative side of healthcare. After her father was diagnosed with cancer, Reynolds decided to move from administration back into nursing with a focus on cancer care. One of her goals, she says, is to put a face on healthcare, and be a steady and comforting point of contact in a system and situation that can be overwhelming.
Based on the praise-filled patient letter that led to her Extraordinary Healer nomination, Reynolds is clearly meeting that goal. The letter highlights her ever-present smile, an especially comforting sight to her patients and colleagues; her ability to connect with patients in a way that invites them to call on her help no matter the circumstance; and an absolutely unflagging loyalty to her patients.
In response to such praise, Reynolds is quick to acknowledge the team she works with, calling them “an invaluable source of support.” She also makes a point to reflect most of the praise back to her patients. “They come in every week,” she says. “Sometimes they are scared, sometimes they are angry, and to think they make the time to honor us, it’s incredible.”
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