Department Spotlight: Infusion Services
October 17, 2023
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Join us in honoring our Chemotherapy & Infusion Services team at Renown Health!
Living life with a chronic condition is never easy – and the road to recovery can take many different turns. When it comes to a daunting diagnosis like cancer or a lifelong illness like multiple sclerosis or rheumatoid arthritis, chemotherapy, transfusions and IV medications are often significant parts of the puzzle. We’re proud to introduce our experts that provide that crucial puzzle piece.
The Chemotherapy & Infusion Services department at Renown Health is where compassionate care meets cutting-edge expertise. Proudly boasting a 100% patient satisfaction rate for 2023, this team – which encompasses nurses, physicians, pharmacists, dietitians, social workers, scheduling and insurance staff and financial counselors – embodies a profound dedication to healing while simultaneously empowering patients to face their diagnosis with resilience and hope.
Going Above and Beyond
The expertise within the Infusion Services team is unmatched in the region, offering education and treatment for a wide variety of illnesses, including:
- Multiple sclerosis (MS)
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Genetic disorders
- Polycythemia vera
According to this team, it truly takes a village to deliver this expert care to all their patients.
“It's really impressive how many key players are involved in caring for our patients!” said Kaitlin Hildebrand, Supervisor of Infusion Services. “The process starts with our amazing Medical Oncology team or community providers referring patients to us. Our nurses are the absolute best advocates for our patients and are amazing at what they do; over half of us are Certified Oncology Nurses. We couldn’t do what we do without our CNAs or our pharmacy team as well; they are such valuable resources for us.”
“It is remarkable to think of the details that take place to ensure care for our patients,” added Amanda Thomas, Chemotherapy RN Specialist. “First, our incredible intake team schedules and obtains authorization, and the patient access representatives check in our patients. From there, our CNAs greet our patients, take their vital signs, ensure they have the proper nutrition and make sure they feel welcomed and comfortable with the process. Then, our chemotherapy specialist RN – which is my role – reviews treatments and coordinates with providers, personalizing care for each patient. In the background, the pharmacy specialists perform safety checks and medication preparation. And of course, our sincerely caring team of nurses assess, care and treat the patient while ensuring they feel educated, led by the charge nurse who supports the team doing safety verifications for all chemotherapies.”
Managing a diagnosis is more than medication – the hope and healing this team provides their patients is a huge aspect of each patient’s journey.
“We work together to take care of this amazing population of patients,” said Stacy Demitropoulos, Infusion Services RN. “We go above and beyond. It is more than just giving patients their medications. It is about human connection, helping them navigate this journey in their health and so much more! We help to troubleshoot problems they may be having and help give them resources.”
“I view going through someone’s cancer journey with them as a privilege,” added Ashley Gravelle, Infusion Services RN. “I try to just meet them where they are. Sometimes we are the only people patients are truly able to express themselves to, whether that be complaining about symptoms, talking about death and dying or being lighthearted about something really serious. I will be whatever the patient needs me to be that day.”
While the work of infusion therapy is fast-paced and requires close attention to time and detail, these teammates are never alone. They work closely together to ensure every patient gets the individualized care they need and deserve.
“Infusion Therapy is busy and extremely time-oriented,” said Audrey Arthur, Infusion Services RN.
“Between handling chemotherapy, immunotherapy, blood products, injections, antibiotics and central lines, there is always a task that needs to be handled. There is an expectation to provide detailed care as swiftly as possible so that these patients can go back home to their families. Additionally, you must keep treatment moving forward so the next person waiting in the lobby can receive their treatment in an appropriate and timely manner.”
“Life in the infusion center is fast-paced but rewarding,” added Nick Leid, Infusion Pharmacist. “The protocols that have been put in place by our clinical specialists allow us to provide patient care for dozens of patients every day while remaining safe and accurate. On the pharmacy side of the infusion center, we ensure that protocols are being adhered to: Making sure doses are calculated correctly, labs are appropriate for treatment, pre-medications for nausea and other symptoms are ordered correctly and that the products delivered to the patient are made correctly.”
“A day in the life of an infusion nurse is a busy one,” added Ashley Gravelle. “We care for usually 9-10 patients each on a given day, and the treatment ranges from chemotherapy and antibiotics to various biologics, TP, injections, lab draws and port/central line care. You have to be an excellent multitasker and be able to switch gears very quickly. It is impossible to do this work without our whole team. When one of us needs help, someone is always there to jump in. We work as a well- oiled machine.”
Together, the infusion services team exemplifies the power of compassionate care, dedication and expertise, lighting the way for healthier tomorrows.
Navigating a Difficult Terrain – TogetherWhen patients receive a diagnosis like cancer, MS or a blood disorder, their whole life shifts. What comes next, and who will help me with this?
The answer: Renown’s Infusion Therapy team, who come to the rescue to give every patient the highest quality of care, holding their hands through the entire process.
“A cancer diagnosis is a life-changing event,” said Nick Leid. “Patients at our infusion center can be assured that they are seeing an oncologist who is going to put them on guideline-recommended treatment. They can also be sure that their treatment is going to be carried out by a group of nurse practitioners, nurses, medical assistants, nursing assistants, dieticians, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and more who work tirelessly to ensure the best care possible. Even though we sometimes face drug shortages, our inventory technicians do a great job of trying to stay ahead of these, and our clinical specialists work with the oncologists to find alternative therapies if needed.”
Communication throughout each patient’s care journey is key, and these team members are communication masters. And that effort does not go unnoticed by their patients and families.
“It is important to me that our patients feel like we are all on the same page to communicate about their unique plan of care,” said Amanda Thomas. “We ensure our patients that we are here to listen to their needs, understand their barriers, connect them to resources, provide them safe care and collaborate together to support them on their journey. Many times, I have had patients and their families thank me for taking the time to help them understand this process during such a difficult time in their lives.”
“I think ultimately, patients just want to be listened to and truly heard,” said Kaitlin Hildebrand. “One thing I tell patients is that their story is unlike anyone else's and to not expect something because they heard others' experiences. I think it helps provide a sense of individuality and control over their experience, which can be helpful when it may feel like they don't have much of that.”
The need for healthcare in northern Nevada continues to grow, and meeting that need is especially important to the Infusion Services department. They know firsthand that the community at large relies on them to be the experts in their field.
“We are working to meet the evolving needs of our cancer center and growing community,” said Audrey Arthur. “We treat 50-80 patients per day."
“As our community grows, this ultimately means there will be more diagnoses that will need to receive treatment at our center,” added Amanda Thomas. “Increasing our efficiency to continue to provide care while still having time to treat each patient’s unique circumstance with attention and care is a challenge our team is up to beat. Hearing how much gratitude our patients and their families express for the care they receive is a reflection of the excellent team serving them.”
Patients and their families can rest assured that they will never – not even for one moment – be alone in their infusion journey.
“I think our biggest accomplishment is that we continue to show up, for both our patients and each other,” said Ashley Gravelle. We make the best of tough situations, and we rejoice together on the good days. We continue to laugh and have the best time together, and our patients love that about us. We are a family.”
“We are with you every step of the way!” added Stacy Demitropoulos. “You are not alone in this, and we are here to support you through this journey.”
An Unbeatable ReputationAs a top-ranked infusion center, the Infusion Services department enjoys a stellar reputation – one that emulates Renown’s culture commitments of Caring, Collaboration, Excellence and Integrity very well.
“I chose to work at Renown in 2014 to be able to provide care for our community with one of the best teams I had heard of to work with,” said Amanda Thomas. “The reputation of the team here is to deliver sincere, high-quality care wrapped with compassion to each patient. During my time here, I have witnessed exceptional team collaboration to ensure our patients receive safe and sincere care during their journey. Our team of wonderful humans serving our patients and their families and knowing that the work we do each day has a true impact on our patients are reasons I stay here. I also enjoy the many opportunities to continue to improve the culture at our organization to better serve one another and our community. Our team has hit record numbers for our daily census and our patient surveys are at an all-time high in regards to satisfaction!”
While the infusion center’s reputation is a significant factor in these team members choosing careers at Renown, many of them have a personal connection to the fields of infusion and cancer care.
“Since early on in my nursing career, I have always been drawn to the Infusion specialty and Oncology patients,” said Kaitlin Hildebrand. “My mom was an Oncology nurse, and she always told me it was her very favorite area of nursing that she had done in her career. She was right! The patients are kind, grateful and highly motivated to beat their disease. More and more treatment options are available, enabling patients to live longer. I truly believe we are the best at what we do in this community. I look forward to our future as a Cancer Institute; our growth will allow us to serve more patients within the community who are in need of quality care.”
According to this team, the bond they all have with one another cannot be broken. The unique journeys they took to arrive at Infusion Services were more than worth it.
“Upon graduating from nursing school in 1990, I found my passions in pediatric critical care and oncology,” said Kenna Pace, Infusion Services RN. “Initially, I was hired as a new graduate nurse in the pediatric ICU where I worked for 26 years. I then transferred to Children’s Infusion to continue caring for children with an emphasis on pediatric oncology, and then I transferred to Infusion Services to continue following my path of caring for patients with cancer. Treatments for cancer are ever-changing with new research and development. It’s an amazing time to be a part of the process of supporting the patients in our community who need care and treatment, especially with the birth of the William N. Pennington Cancer Institute. Here, our patients get all-encompassing support and care regarding every stage of treatment. It’s wonderful to be a part of such an amazing team!
“At Renown and the William N. Pennington Cancer Institute, we all work together to help patients and their families navigate impossible times in their lives,” added Audrey Arthur. “As a result, there is a unique bond between the patients and staff. It's always a compliment to have a patient tell us that they always look forward to seeing us. We get to see these patients living with their diagnoses over weeks, months, or even years. This time lets us connect and really be a part of their journeys and get to know each patient as an individual. On top of that, the staff supports each other just as much as the patients.”
If you are ready to discover a career that cares about you, the Infusion Services department is hiring people just like you. This team is ready to welcome new caring employees with open arms and support their progress as they reach new heights.
“There is a lot of momentum to grow in this department, and it's exciting to watch,” said Audrey Arthur. "One of our nurses recently earned her Oncology Certified Nurse credential, and another one of our nurses was a key player in our Vital Hearts program. There are also many staff members working while going to school to earn additional degrees to expand their practice.”
This department is led by strong and compassionate leaders, guiding their employees towards success and their patients towards healing. The many teams they rely on around Renown and in the community help them fulfill their mission of making a genuine difference in the lives of all patients.
"Our work couldn’t be done without the support for our team from our wonderful direct leaders, Kaitlin Hildebrand and Poeth Kilonzo,” said Amanda Thomas. “There are so many layers that go into the care our team provides each patient, not to mention the ancillary teams that support us such as Central Supply, Blood Bank, Lab Services, EKG teams and many more. It truly is amazing to think about how patients are able to receive care in a timely manner to be back home the same day.”
“We are lucky to have our Nursing Director, Poeth, who works incredibly hard to ensure our patients have what they need and our staff are represented well,” added Kaitlin Hildebrand. “She truly has our best interests at heart.”
With their unwavering commitment to patient well-being, the Infusion Services team is a shining example of how teamwork and compassion can truly change lives.
“Caring for cancer patients and their families is an absolute privilege. I have learned so much from being able to connect with our patients of past and present. Some days are joyful, others heavy, but they are all worthwhile,” closes Audrey Arthur.