Kenneth L Abbott, MD, FACP  |  4/14/2022

Compassionate Competence

Several weeks ago, I noted in this space the recent conferring of the DAISY (“Diseases Attacking the Immune SYstem”) Award on the CHMC Infusion Center, the first such award in the organization to a team rather than an individual. Within the nursing profession, this internationally recognized designation is highly significant and prized, considered a special honor because it comes from the very persons whom nurses serve, their patients, as well as health care professionals and colleagues who wish to draw attention to the best examples of nursing excellence. Registered nurses consider the DAISY Award prestigious and unique, for there are no comparable honors in the field.

To get a better, more personal sense of the perspective of an award recipient, I spoke with Renee Sbrocco, one of six nurses who comprise the team. Mrs. Sbrocco began her work in oncology nursing at Cornell in New York City. Upon moving to Calvert County, she joined the staff of what was then Calvert Memorial Hospital. Over 27 years, she has worked in the emergency department, the ICU, and the endoscopy suite; for the last 16 years, however, the health system has employed her many skills and talents to excellent effect in the Main Infusion Center. Because of her vast experience and insights, she is well positioned to tell us more about what the DAISY Award means to her and her colleagues.

Renee Sbrocco, RN

The Infusion Center received this award two months ago in a surprise ceremony. What was it like that day?
Very emotional. There were a lot of happy tears. We know we work well together and it is gratifying that others think so highly of what we do.

Why is it significant that this award for nursing excellence was given to you as a team?
We are more like a family than a team, with mutual support, encouragement, and building up. Because of the seriousness of this work, we rely on one another, not just in the physical acts of giving chemotherapy or blood transfusions, but also to help make it through stress and difficulties. Everything associated with COVID over the past two years put an extra layer of problems on top of our everyday challenges. Sometimes stress forces people apart. We made a pact as a team not to let this happen. Every month we have a special dinner together—we call it Taco Tuesday. A deceptively simple occasion that keeps our morale up and the team close.

The DAISY Foundation has already recognized several excellent individual nurses working for CHMC, and the medical center has many excellent patient care delivery teams. Why, in your opinion, was Main Infusion the first to receive this team award?
Many people coming to the hospital receive their care on a short-term or episodic basis—you come in with a particular need, it gets taken care of, and you’re on your way again. Main Infusion, because of the nature of the illness we deal with, encounters its patients again and again over a much longer time. We have the chance to get to know our patients, on a personal basis, and often their families and caregivers as well. Again, COVID and the restrictions on visitors forced changes, with the infusion nurses “standing in” for the support that family members could no longer provide at chairside.

What drew you to work in the Infusion Center?
Sadly, cancer for so many threatens an early death, and I hate death. We do everything we can to defeat it. While we can’t and don’t fix everybody, most of our patients see improvement over time. I love helping people to live and to maximize whatever time remains to them, to get the most out of their lives. I believe this field is a special calling, one in which I receive back more than I give.

What is unique or special about the work done in the Infusion Center?
The longevity of the relationships we build in scary circumstances. I have a chance to come alongside someone in a life-defining journey, to use my heart as well as my head. I love to give people useful information and insight, to encourage and let them know others care. Helping them to understand what is going on usually helps them to deal with their disease and their treatment.

What challenges do you encounter?
As already mentioned, this is an emotional job, especially when you really do care. It exacts a toll when I lose someone I’ve known and worked with for months, even years. But the real rewards come when people do well. Even their family members and caregivers seem to benefit. With the passage of time, with improvements in cancer care that have produced longer life and better life, with technology that has enhanced communication throughout the oncology service, things are steadily better. We do miss having a view outside, a connection with nature. A bright sunny day, with the light playing off the green plants and flowers, can do wonders for the spirit of someone going through a difficult treatment course.

What as nurses do you want your patients to know about receiving care in the Infusion Center?
Communication is key. Please speak up. There are no bad questions, and there is no bad time to ask them. I’d much rather explain something twenty times than have the question never asked.

On behalf of a grateful community, I thank Renee Sbrocco along with Kathy Bendle, Debbie Clark, Jenny Dixon, Erin Parks, and Holli Truitt for their dedication and commitment to the highest ideals of the nursing profession. They bless the Calvert community every day.
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