A lot has changed in cancer treatment over the last two decades, and oncology nurse Katie Brockman, RN, OCN, has had a front row seat for much of it.
Back in 1988 she worked with Drs. Needles and Greco in their office here and at that time was asked to “fill in” providing infusion therapy for their patients.
Brockman readily agreed to help and with that found a specialty that she loved.
Today Brockman is one of the oncology nurses working at the new Mercy Cancer Center in the Patients First Health Care building in Washington, which opened Monday.
As people toured the new space last Thursday following a private ribbon-cutting ceremony, Brockman said people often ask her why she has stayed in oncology all these years and how she has avoided getting burned out in a field that can be so hard on the spirit.
“It’s not all bad news,” she said, smiling. “There are longer survival rates today, less nausea, better outcomes, new studies, new treatments . . .
“And I just love taking care of them.”
The opening of the Mercy Cancer Center marks another milestone in cancer treatment in Franklin County. It’s the beginning of a collaborative effort between Mercy Hospital Washington and Patients First Health Care.
Previously both providers offered cancer services. Now Mercy’s former David C. Pratt Cancer Center in Washington and the Patients First Cancer Center have merged their care teams and services to create the Mercy Cancer Center.
“It’s spring,” said Connie Stelzer, RN, BSN, infusion center manager. “It’s new life . . . and because of that, we’re all going to be stronger. It’s going to be that much better for all of us.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am for this . . . It’s a wonderful thing.”
The new center offers the best services and staff from Mercy and Patients First in a contemporary space with hospital-level care standards.
“The collaboration between Patients First and Mercy means that Cancer Center patients will have access to the very best comprehensive treatment and compassionate care close to where they live and work,” said Dr. David Chalk, chairman of Patients First Health Care.
“The center has a long history of care and experience,” said Terri L. McLain, president of Mercy Hospital Washington. “When Mercy originally opened its cancer center, we called on our relationship with Mercy’s David C. Pratt Center in St. Louis. At this stage in our progression in Washington, we offer the proven experience and exceptional resources of the Pratt Cancer Center — with many of the same services, doctors and treatments — and we welcome the additional knowledge and expertise of the staff from the former Patients First Cancer Center.”
Add Pharmacy, Smart Pumps, More
Patients who previously received cancer treatments at Patients First may not notice any difference in the space at the now Mercy Cancer Center or in their care, but behind the scenes there were some significant additions made so that it meets hospital standards, said Matt Posinski, Mercy’s vice president of ancillary and support services.
This includes a new pharmacy lab and “clean room” in the infusion center where an on-staff pharmacist will prepare patients admixture, or infusion medication, in a sterile environment.
Previously, nurses prepared the admixture, said W.D. Kennon, Pharm. D., one of the Cancer Center’s pharmacists.
“Now they can focus all of their attention on patient care,” he said.
The clean room includes three separate chambers divided by clear plastic hanging curtains. The first chamber is an anteroom, said Kennon, and the other two chambers are where the patients’ medications are prepared — one is for chemotherapy medications and the other is for all other infusion medications.
The clear hanging curtains serve two purposes. They help keep the environment sterile, and they help control the pressure, said Kennon, noting a monitor measures the pressure in each section.
“The different air pressure in each (section) is for proper air movement,” he said. “We have negative pressure in the chemo room and positive pressure in the non-chemo room.”
One change that many patients may notice in the infusion center are the Smart Pumps located at each of the 15 treatment chairs.
“These add parameters to enhance patient safety,” said Posinski, explaining it’s just another layer of protection to ensure the right patients get the right dose of medication at the right time.
Patients also may notice that the new Cancer Center features chairside documentation, which Kristin Fischer, RN, ONS, BSN, said means “there won’t be charts for nurses to chase around or go searching for.” It will all be on the computer.”
The chairs will be the same ones patients remember, she noted — with heated seats — and the pampering treatment for patients will be the same, as well — heated blankets, lunch service and snacks.
One new service that has been added to the infusion center is blood transfusions.
A new dedicated entrance has been added to the Mercy Cancer Center at Patients First to give cancer patients easier access to their care.
In addition to the infusion center, the Mercy Cancer Center at Patients First houses the medical oncology and hematology practice of Christopher Hueser, DO, and Muhammad Mirza, MD.
Radiation Treatments Remain at Hospital
The one cancer treatment that currently isn’t offered at the Patients First building is radiation oncology. For now, that will remain on the campus at the hospital, said Posinski.
“The equipment we have is newer and offers more services,” he explained, noting, however, that Mercy is working toward having all of its cancer services and programs under one roof.
Radiation oncologists James Z. Chen, MD, Robert C. Frazier, MD, and Jaymeson S. Stroud, MD, will be based at the Mercy Cancer Center at the Mercy Medical Building (901 E. Fifth St. in Washington) where patients will receive radiation therapy through the linear accelerator.
The linear accelerator, which targets unhealthy cancer cells while diminishing the risk of hurting healthy cells, has received an upgrade to give physicians and technicians 3D viewing capabilities for enhanced targeting.
Treats All Patients
Mercy Cancer Center treats patients of all ages, with all types of cancer, and offers access to clinical trials. It offers services to treat the whole patient, ranging from advanced diagnostic testing, chemotherapy and radiation therapies to education and support.
“Our physicians and staff offer the highest quality, most up-to-date care close to home. And because we are Mercy, we don’t turn anyone away who is in need of care,” said McLain.
For more information about the Mercy Cancer Center, call 636-390-1600.