Posted on

Voluminous Volunteer Thanks

This is National Volunteer Appreciation Week. What. A. Week!

I’ve previously expressed what an amazingly untapped volunteer resource nursing is in general, but this week I haven’t focused on nursing volunteers; I’ve had my eyes and thoughts fixed on all the amazing volunteers who help within healthcare settings. They volunteer for all sorts of reasons and for varying time frames and in myriad locations. A lot of the times healthcare volunteers end up donating more than time because they see the needs and know how financial donations make a difference to patients and team members.

What I appreciate is that healthcare volunteers take their skills and put them to use in many settings. Some sit at the bedside of dying patients; some organize meeting notes and files; some prep certain aspects of patient care; some fill areas with music; some teach; some clean; some cook.

All care.

Have you thanked a volunteer this week?

Posted on

Help Increase Services to Cancer Patients by Doing What You Already Do Everyday

Think of your favorite song of the moment. How does it make you feel; does it change your mood? Maybe the way your feeling impacts your “favorite” song right now. Both, actually.

Music is powerful. It has the influence to change our emotions, but it also has the capability to help us express ever-changing feelings. Music therapy for cancer patients is an evidence-based care strategy to reduce anxiety and even help improve pain management. Yet, it is often missing from oncology services. In ten years of oncology nursing, I have never had the opportunity to work in a clinic setting with music therapy services. I haven’t had the chance to actually see the difference music therapy can make for patients; that means literally thousands of patients haven’t had that service offered to them alongside their clinical care. That’s incredibly disappointing.

I want the chance to change that for the patients I currently help serve.

Will you please take literally two minutes to vote for my cancer center to receive the Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program via funding from LIVESTRONG? Voting ends Friday, April 11th, at 5 PM Eastern. Vote once and then follow the corresponding links to share via Facebook as well as Twitter to garner a total of 3 votes to help bring this amazing program.

With three days remaining to vote, I’d love your help to improve lives.


Since its formal inception in 2002, the Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program has become an essential component of the Carol G. Simon Cancer Center, a subsidiary of Morristown Medical Center’s integrative approach to caring for cancer patients. The Jeffrey Frank Wacks Music Therapy Program, one of the longest-running programs of its kind in the country, has demonstrated great success in serving the people of the communities where the program is currently offered. The program’s overarching goal is to facilitate relaxation, decrease anxiety and stress, enhance wellness, improve pain management and provide comfort and support for cancer patients and their caregivers.

Posted on

LIVESTRONG Matters to Healthcare Professionals and Our Patients

Living in Austin, Texas, global headquarters for LIVESTRONG, and working in the oncology care community, the recent events surrounding Lance Armstrong is big news. I honestly have not thought a lot about the controversy since news broke, but a 12-mile run at a local YMCA gave me plenty of time and visual fodder to think through the noise.

Headphones in, sweating away, and I see a dear and familiar face on the television screen in front of me. Jonny Imerman, a cancer survivor and founder of the amazing Imerman Angels, a nonprofit providing free, one-on-one cancer support to people all across the globe, was selected as a CNN Hero. There’s no one else more perfect for that title than Jonny, who has connected cancer survivors and patients in more than 65 countries. The television feature showed a few familiar photos of Jonny like the one where he attended the LIVESTRONG Global Summit three years ago, further spreading the vision of Imerman Angels. Not too long ago Imerman Angels became a formal partner with LIVESTRONG to connect patients with support services as they call the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center.

Oddly enough, the very next seconds on CNN were occupied with a discussion about Lance Armstrong banned from cycling with LIVESTRONG images catapulting from the screen.  The spot didn’t last long, and I caught myself laughing at the juxtaposition of the back-to-back features. I looked around. Yellow LIVESTRONG bands were everywhere. LIVESTRONG Austin Half-Marathon and Marathon runner and medical staff shirts bounced on the treadmills in front of me, and the LIVESTRONG at the Y program flyers encouraged participation on the wall behind me.

LIVESTRONG means many things to me as an oncology nurse. I have personally referred patients, friends, and family members to the LIVESTRONG Cancer Navigation Center, Imerman Angels, LIVESTRONG at the Y, and many other LIVESTRONG services and partners like Planet Cancer, Sharing Hope, and the Patient Advocate Foundation. I have witnessed the life-changing and life-saving impacts of each of these programs and services.

Am I biased? Absolutely. LIVESTRONG has poured time, effort, and money into me professionally as a nurse. They’ve done the same for you. I am not an employee of LIVESTRONG, but I am extremely proud of the work I’ve done with them and the Nurse Oncology Education Program to reach literally thousands of nurses and other healthcare professionals about adolescent and young adult cancer and now cancer in the Hispanic/Latino population, a new continuing nursing education video which will release soon. LIVESTRONG has done the same kind of education and resource-creation for physicians, educators, community leaders, and community health workers, as well.

LIVESTRONG cares about people impacted by cancer. That means they care about nurses and the millions of providers worldwide who care for the 28 million people globally living with cancer.

I have never personally met Lance even though I’ve seen him many times at events and in and around Austin, where he’s done incredible work for the city, local healthcare organizations, and cyclists as well as other health-conscious folks. As much as Lance Armstrong has done, LIVESTRONG is more than Lance Armstrong. It’s about life – your life, my life. With 1 in 3 Americans developing cancer in their lifetime and cancer as the leading cause of mortality with 7.6 million deaths worldwide, we all need an organization like LIVESTRONG, one that works alongside grassroots to global organizations to impact health in our communities and around the world. LIVESTRONG makes a difference for people impacted by cancer. LIVESTRONG makes a difference for healthcare professionals. LIVESTRONG makes a difference for our patients. LIVESTRONG makes a difference for you.

That won’t ever change. LIVESTRONG.

Full disclosure: I worked as the program director for the Nurse Oncology Education Program (NOEP) for almost five years in which I worked closely with LIVESTRONG to educate nurses in all fields of practice about their role in cancer prevention, detection, treatment, and survivorship care. I continue to work with NOEP and LIVESTRONG on continuing nursing education activities, the most recent one scheduled to release on August 29, 2012. I did not receive remuneration to write this post. These are the opinions and thoughts of a masters-prepared oncology certified nurse in clinical practice and a person whose family is impacted by cancer. 

Posted on

Recent Reads and Views: From Modern Art to Exotic Cars to the Thunderbox

People often ask, “How do you get your inspiration? How can you find stuff to write about every day?” Well, I read a lot (both related and unrelated to nursing), and I keep my eyes and mind open to the inspiration around me. Here’s a smidgen of what I’ve been reading and watching recently:

What are you reading and watching this week?

Posted on

A Lovely Month for Men to Learn A Pattern of Self-Exam Love

I’ve mentioned this already; it’s worth another mention.

Men, especially those between ages 15 to 34, need to check their testicles once a month for any abnormalities – a lump, swelling, or pain. These symptoms can occur with numerous conditions – not only testicular cancer, so it’s important for guys to see a doctor any time they have any symptoms.

The adolescent and young adult age (AYA) group – those between ages 15 and 39 – are the largest uninsured population in the United States. Chances are, if a guy doesn’t have insurance and still has the symptoms previously mentioned, he likely will not see a healthcare provider. As nurses and other healthcare professionals, we can educate, advocate for ongoing (monthly) testicular self exams, and link uninsured individuals with supportive resources to decrease that financial distress. If you need some help starting the discussion or educating the men in your life or those you care for about monthly testicular self-examination, Single Jingles has excellent resources ready and waiting for you. (Scroll down to the bottom of the page for their free downloadable posters and brochures.)

Men, love yourself; check yourself!

Posted on

Drinking the Lemonade: Nurse Researchers Focus on Childhood Cancer

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) recently awarded a refreshing $100,000 to three nurse researchers. Pam Hinds, RN, PhD, Celeste Phillips-Salimi, PhD, and Gloanna Peek, RN, MSN, received varying amounts over the next two years to study childhood and adolescent and young adult cancer. ALSF added the Nurse Researcher Grant Program to its funding portfolio in 2007, making it the first national childhood charity to fund nursing research.

Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra “Alex” Scott (1996-2004). With the vision of finding a cure for all childhood cancers, Alex set out to hold lemonade stands to raise funds to do just that. A decade later, the Foundation bearing her name funds both medical and nursing research which aims to not only find better treatments and cures for all childhood cancers, but to improve the quality of care and life for children and their families fighting the disease now. To date, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 charity, has raised more than $50 million toward fulfilling Alex’s dream of finding a cure, funding over 200 research projects nationally including those examining leukemia, brain tumors, neuroblastoma, Wilm’s tumor, lymphoma, and osteosarcoma, among others.

Bravo, ALF; cheers to our nurse colleagues!

Posted on

Coffee + Cervical Cancer Screening = Volunteerism

"coffee beans" by via Flickr

Looking for a way to give back and see the world at the same time? You need to volunteer for my friends at Grounds for Health, a global nonprofit bringing women’s health to coffee-growing communities in Mexico, Tanzania, and Nicaragua. They use cervical cancer screening technologies such as VIAA to save lives in these resource-limited areas. Cervical cancer is a global threat, and you can make a difference.

Volunteering with Grounds for Health is sure to be an amazing experience. And if you can’t globe-trot, there are absolutely other ways to volunteer with this great organization. Get involved today.

Posted on

Web-Based Program Helps Nurses Track and Change Health Behaviors

The Nurse Oncology Education Program, or NOEP, is helping one of the unhealthiest populations in the U.S. – nurses – track and change seven cancer-related health behaviors: fruit and vegetable consumption, red meat consumption, tobacco use, sugary-beverage consumption, screen time, physical activity, and alcohol consumption. The program – AvidNurse Tracker– released about seven months ago, and as a user myself, it’s clear the free service is picking up new, engaged users. It is definitely a fun accountability tool nurses can easily utilize.

A visual explanation of AvidNurse Tracker from NOEP's home page,

Primarily focused on Texas nurses, nurses from anywhere in the world can create a free account and immediately start tracking health behaviors, including weekly weight and BMI changes. Users earn points and electronic trophies for tracking health behaviors, entering weekly weights, participating in fun, weekly polls, and referring Texas nurses to the program. AvidNurse Tracker provides immediate feedback and encouragement on progress, and users’ points give them the same number of entries into the monthly random drawing for sweet little prizes like mini-fridges and DVD players (to watch and conduct at-home fitness programs, of course). I’ve heard that larger prizes and a mobile version of AvidNurse Tracker are in the works. Very, very cool.

Full Disclosure: I am a former NOEP team member, and I helped develop AvidNurse Tracker. Due to my own struggles with getting and staying fit, I still use AvidNurse Tracker daily. I did not receive money for this post; my opinions are my own.

Posted on

Nonprofit Leader International Fellowship

“Atlas Service Corps, Inc. (Atlas Corps), started in 2006, is an international network of nonprofit leaders and organizations that promotes innovation, cooperation, and solutions to address the world’s 21st century challenges”…oh, say, like the myriad healthcare issues worldwide.

Apply for the 2011 September Fellowship in either the U.S or Colombia. The prestigious 12-month fellowship includes a living stipend, health insurance, and training. Fellows serve at organizations complementing their expertise. Healthcare organizations are represented among current and past fellows, but I do not see any nurses in the international list. Maybe they are waiting for you. Applications are due April 15, 2011.

Posted on

Nurses Rock Volunteerism

Nurses are amazing volunteers. Working in the nonprofit sector, I have the privilege of working with many nurse volunteers. I’ve said it before – I don’t think nonprofits (health care or otherwise) capitalize on nurse volunteers or the professional skills nurses bring to the table.

I recently won Y Gen Out Loud‘s Y Gen Cares at the Holidays Contest. In case you wonder what I sound like in real life, you can check out the radio interview about my thoughts on volunteering, family, nursing, and service.