Archives for April 2014

I Am an Oncology Nurse

I Am an Oncology Nurse

Throughout my nursing career, my roles have changed like the seasons.

I spent my first few years building a solid foundation of skills in post-surgical, vascular, trauma and wound care; and eventually felt ready to take on a new role in nursing. I had heard great things about oncology nursing and remember thinking, “How could one area of nursing be so different?” After working at Green Bay Oncology for 6 months, I knew. It was different. It was…special. To work with such compassionate individuals is the most inspiring work I have done so far.

Oncology nursing combines nursing skills, knowledge, care and compassion to make the patient and family experience as positive as possible before, during and after the cancer journey. It requires the unique ability to build strong relationships and act as a liaison between the patient, family and caregivers. It is hard work, but I am often humbled by the kindness and grateful nature of our oncology patients and their families. Oncology is truly a great field to work in.

Don’t get me wrong, nursing can be and often is a demanding job. The nurse encounters demands both physically and emotionally. Oncology nursing doesn’t escape these demands. In many ways, it can be more emotionally taxing then other fields. It can also be more emotionally rewarding.

I have yet to have a day where I felt it was too much to handle, mainly because of the supportive relationships between coworkers and the patients who give so much back to each of us, whether intentionally or not. The kind words of appreciation and recognition along with the many treats and gifts from our amazing patients and their families are powerful and valued. The strong bonds between coworkers is fostered by GBO’s commitment to their employees and helps us live out our clinics values every day.

The oncology nurse can serve the patient population in several different ways. We provide direct patient care, and also have opportunities to work as practitioners, educators, administrators, researchers, patient navigators and more. As oncology nurses, we have a large support system nationally, within the Oncology Nurse Society (ONS), and locally, with the Northeastern Wisconsin Oncology Nurse Society (NEWONS). Here, within these support systems, oncology nurses from different clinics and hospitals can connect, continue education and share experiences. ONS has helped provide standards and certifications for oncology nurses and also provides funding to oncology nurses who want to further their education. ONS doesn’t only help the nurse, but the patient as well; patient advocates fight for funding and patients’ rights on Capitol Hill and are lobbying for the patients’ best interest daily.

Oncology nursing is not just a job; it truly is a calling. It is also the most rewarding thing I have done in my career so far.

I am no longer a nurse. I am an oncology nurse, and am very proud to say that.

Katie Olmsted Photo

Begin With the End in Mind (part 1)

Begin With the End in Mind (part 1)

April 16th marked National Healthcare Decisions Day. It’s intended to get people thinking about – and there’s no nice way to say this – dying. 

“Why on earth would I want to do that?” I hear you saying. Well, you don’t. Not really. And neither do I. In fact, the only thing worse than thinking about dying is – never bothering to think about it at all. 

Sound like a paradox?

Think about the following statistics:

  •        75% of Americans wish to die at home
  •        70% of Americans die in a hospital or nursing facility
  •        70% of Americans don’t have advanced directives

Stephen R. Covey, in 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, tells us that to succeed at anything we first have to clearly state what we want. He calls it “beginning with the end in mind.” And studies clearly show that outlining your end-of-life wishes well in advance significantly increases the chances that things will happen your way.

I’m going to die one day and have some strong preferences about how that goes down. My wife Sara knows my preferences because we talk about it every few months. These conversations aren’t the downer you’d think they are. We’ve gotten pretty good at it.

Why is this such a priority for me? Because I’ve seen what happens without advance directives. And it’s devastating.

National Healthcare Decisions Day

National Healthcare Decisions Day

Green Bay Healthcare Decisions Day Proclamation

WHEREAS,  Healthcare Decisions Day is designed to raise public awareness of the need to plan ahead for health care decisions, related to end of life care and medical decision-making whenever patients are unable to speak for themselves and to encourage the specific use of advance directives to communicate these important health care decisions; and

WHEREAS,  in Green Bay, WI the Patient Self-Determination Act provides the specifics of our advance directives law and offers a model form for patient use; and

WHEREAS, it is estimated that only about 20 percent of people in Green Bay, WI have executed an advance directive.  Moreover, it is estimated that less than 50 percent of severely or terminally ill patients have an advance directive; and

WHEREAS, it is likely that a significant reason for these low percentages is that there is both a lack of knowledge and considerable confusion in the public about Advance Directives; and

WHEREAS, one of the principal goals of Healthcare Decisions Day is to encourage hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, continuing care retirement communities, and hospices to participate in a State-wide effort to provide clear and consistent information to the public about advance directives, as well as to encourage medical professionals and lawyers to volunteer their time and efforts to improve public knowledge and increase the number of Green Bay, WI citizens with advance directives; and

WHEREAS,  Heartland Home Health Care & Hospice along with Green Bay Oncology and other organizations throughout Wisconsin have endorsed this event and are committed to educating the public about the importance of discussing health care choices and executing advance directives; and

WHEREAS, as a result of April 16, 2014, being recognized as Healthcare Decisions Day in Green Bay, WI, more citizens will have conversations about their health care decisions; more citizens will execute Advance Directives to make their wishes known; and fewer families and health care providers will have to struggle with making difficult health care decisions in the absence of guidance from the patient;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Mayor Jim Schmitt, do hereby recognize April 16, 2014, as HEALTHCARE DECISIONS DAY in Green Bay, WI and I call this observance to the attention of all our citizens.


Green Bay Oncology comes to Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital

Green Bay Oncology comes to Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital

Some of the best cancer care in the nation is now at Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital.

One of the strongest cancer teams in the nation is proud to make cancer treatment in Schoolcraft stronger too.

Green Bay Oncology is delighted to be partnering with Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital (SMH) to provide the community and surrounding areas with one of the best cancer care providers in the nation.

Green Bay Oncology is relentless in fighting cancer. Relentless in beating it. For decades, we have been known for giving patients across Northeast Wisconsin and Upper Michigan access to the highest quality, innovative cancer care.

Green Bay Oncology is proud to announce as we move forward with groundbreaking treatments, we’re also partnering with Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital to provide cancer care to our patients.

Now, area patients can benefit from Green Bay Oncology’s unwavering drive and unmatched expertise.

Green Bay Oncology specialists will be treating both adult Oncology and Hematology patients. Some of these treatments include: Chemotherapy, Biotherapy, treatments for all Anemia types,  Blood Disorders and Bone Marrow Biopsies.

For a second opinion or to schedule an appointment, call toll-free at
(866) 884-3135.

Schoolcraft Memorial Hospital Address: 7870W US Hwy 2, Manistique, Michigan 49854

Matthew L. Ryan, M.D.  and  Jules H. Blank, M.D.

ryan-280x262         Jules-Blank-Portrait

Oral Chemotherapy Bill

Oral Chemotherapy Bill

Presently, the state Senate is considering passing the bill on oral chemotherapy. The state Assembly last week passed the bill which would cap the amount of co-payment at $100 per month for the cost of oral chemotherapy. Currently, there is a very large disparity in the coverage for intravenous versus oral chemotherapy. The payments for some patients may exceed $3,000 per month for all oral chemotherapy as opposed to only $150 for intravenous chemotherapy.

There are a variety of newer oral chemotherapy agents available in the last ten years which are very active and are the preferred agents for the treatment of certain malignancies. An example is in the treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia or CML – one of the cancers of the blood. The disease can usually is diagnosed in people in their 50s and 60s but occasionally can be discovered as young as the early 20s. It is characterized as elevated blood counts. It was uniformly fatal with life expectancies of only 3-4 years once diagnosed. The initial effective treatment was a bone marrow transplant which required a donor. A bone marrow transplant can be complicated and is a very difficult procedure for some patients due to their other medical problems and age. Through intensive research, a unique chromosome translocation called the Philadelphia chromosome was discovered and found to be the cause of CML.

Medications have been developed which can block the abnormal protein which the Philadelphia chromosome produces and can halt the growth of the abnormal cells. The first of these medications developed is called imatinib. This drug, when used in CML, can completely halt the growth of the CML cells and prolong a patient’s life. Unfortunately, it appears that imatinib will need to be continued for the rest of the patient’s life. Taking the pill form can be a more convenient process for patients vs having traditional infusion chemotherapy. When patients are taking imatinib, their lives can return to normal with limited side-effects and their life-expectancy can return to normal versus only 3-4 years without imatinib. The cost for oral imatinib is approximately $9,000 per month or $108,000 per year.  By passing the proposed bill, patients would be subject to markedly less costs subject to deductible, out-of-pocket maximums and a $100 per month copayment only.

As the above illustrates, it is imperative that the state legislature and our governor work diligently on passing legislation that will help bring the cost of these medications down for people of Wisconsin.