the path to change: Oncology
nurses leading the way

. :  Nancy Lee Brown (Montreal)

Nancy Lee Brown, McGill University Health Centre

I am a clinical nurse specialist in psychosocial oncology with a memorable inpatient success story. I once overheard a discussion between two colleagues about a 56 year old patient with metastatic disease; they wondered if she should be able to get out on a pass, as she was neutropenic and possibly suicidal. I decided to meet with the patient to do a depression screening and suicide assessment. She appeared relaxed, smiled regularly, and maintained eye contact. She described herself as “happy”, and well supported by family, friends and her religious faith. She stated, “I don’t regret the choices I’ve made. I’ve had a good, life. I’m at peace.” When I asked about suicide she stated, “No one’s hands will take me from this earth but God’s.” When asked about her wishes, she said, “All I want to do is get out of this place, to do something normal”.

I presented my assessment to the doctors, noting that she was neither depressed nor suicidal, and advocated for her to go out on a pass. The doctors agreed to a brief pass, which the patient used to see a hockey game with her brother that night. She was overjoyed to go. The patient died three days later. At her bedside, her grieving brother described the happy moments they were able to share at that hockey game, and his gratitude that it had been possible. This story emphasizes the importance and impact of the nurse’s role in patient assessment and advocacy.

Nancy Lee Brown, RN, MSc(A), CON(C)
Montréal, QC
McGill University Health Centre
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Psychosocial Oncology Program

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