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SGCMH Oncology Team Wins National Award

The Alan P. Lyss Center for Cancer Care and Clinical Research at Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital (SGCMH) received the 2019 Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Pearl Moore “Making a Difference” Team Achievement Award for going the extra mile to impact the lives of patients with cancer and their families.

Sandy Schilli, director of oncology, RN, BSN, OCN, accepted the award at the society’s Annual Congress from April 11 to April 14 in Anaheim, California.

Schilli’s submission for the award included a narrative describing the cancer center at SGCMH and how the community came together nearly two decades ago and raised money for this cancer program to have its own dedicated area with private treatment rooms. This idea came directly from patients and their families telling the staff what was important to them.

She also explained that through community donations to the hospital’s Friends Foundation specifically for oncology, SGCMH’s oncology team was able to provide many comforts (per staff choice and request) that are actually quite extraordinary. Two treatment rooms are set up with massage chairs. Donations have also funded laptop computers for patients to use while at the center, a blanket warmer, Baer hugger patient warming units for each chair, and a large television in each private room.  

“Our team firmly believes that education and knowledge is a way to empower our patients to gain some control over their situation, cope more effectively with their disease, and become an active participant in the entire cancer care process,” Schilli said. “Because of this, we take patient teaching very seriously, and provide each new patient receiving chemo a comprehensive educational packet that includes a book on cancer care, Chemotherapy and Radiation for Dummies, co-authored by our very own Dr. Alan Lyss.”

In her application, Schilli also explained that when not performing direct patient care, educating, or compounding chemotherapy, the nurses are determinedly educating themselves on the unending new drugs and therapies on the horizon, and searching for ways to improve their systems and processes of care and care coordination, as well as encouraging, supporting and praising the innovation and compassion of each other.

“We all love what we do and enjoy working together,” Schilli said. “Each of us takes immense satisfaction and pride in the specialized cancer care services we are able to offer our small community, including the chance to offer our patients national clinical research trials. As our CEO [Tom Keim] likes to boast, we are the smallest clinical cancer research center in the nation.”

Dr. Alan Lyss, medical oncologist at SGCMH since 1992, sent the ONS his endorsement of the SGCMH oncology department, saying that it is his contention that there could be no more worthy recipients of the Team Achievement Award than Sandy Schilli and her team.

“Since 1992, the nurses and their assistants at the Medical Oncology Clinic of Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital have set a standard for excellence in oncology nursing care that has been felt throughout their hospital and community,” Lyss said. “They have consistently become their patients [and their patients’ family members] ‘new best friends.’ Despite the dizzying array of services they coordinate and provide, they never lose sight of the fact that the patients to whom they are providing these services are their community members and are trusting the Ste. Genevieve staff to guide them on their new, undesired journey.”

He added that the oncology team has truly transformed cancer care at SGCMH and the community and fostered excellence in nursing that has inspired their colleagues in other departments of the hospital.

The award application also included a SGCMH patient testimonial by Vonne Karraker.

“It was my second diagnosis that led me to the wonderful team of the Alan P. Lyss Oncology Center in Ste. Genevieve,” Karraker said. “I was a wreck when I got there. My family resigned themselves to planning my funeral. My husband had nearly given up, and we’d both aged a decade in six months. At the Lyss Cancer Center, we found warmth, humor, an indomitable will, and innovative ways to keep me going until I could jump-start myself. These fantastic professionals, along with the Amazing Maggie [Giesler], made sure that I was never alone in my battle. They tackled my care with hard work, great ideas, prayer, and sheer moxie.”

Karraker says she feels great these days thanks to the tremendous care she received at SGCMH.

“I try to honor them by living my life in the biggest, most fearless, most generous way that I can,” she said.

While Schilli and her team are proud of receiving the award from the ONS, Schilli says she is even more proud to hear from her patients like Karraker.

“They’re the reason I’ve led this small but mighty cancer care team for the last 21 years,” Schilli said. “I take the burden of responsibility very personal, and take pride in providing compassionate, high quality care for my community, family, neighbors, and friends in Ste. Genevieve.

“Besides being skilled, experienced and well-qualified professionals, high on the list of prerequisites to hold a position in this special cancer center, one must be genuinely kindhearted and practice compassionate, patient-centered care — every, single, day.”    

The Team Achievement Award is named for Pearl Moore, the first executive director and CEO of the ONS. During her tenure, she inspired and mentored countless oncology nurses to provide unbeatable care and advocate for patients and their caregivers.

(Information in a news release from Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital.)

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