The Susan D. Flynn Oncology Fellowship, Summer 2019

The Susan D. Flynn Oncology Fellowship program was developed by Mr. Fred Flynn in memory of his late wife who he lost to ovarian cancer in 2013. The fellowship is open to rising seniors from top nursing schools and is intended to stimulate career interest and foster the professional development of potential future oncology nurses. Now in its fifth year, the program sponsored 33 fellows at 13 different hospitals on the east coast. Fellows spend 8-10 weeks in the hospital setting working alongside a registered nurse, learning about the roles and responsibilities of working in oncology. in addition to the clinical component, fellows enroll in online education modules related to oncology and palliative care. They also complete an Evidence-Based Practice project and present it to nurses and hospital administrators. Three Boston College Students were selected to take part in the fellowship this past summer. Gianna Bender and Kristin Sullivan were the two students chosen to participate at Boston Children’s Hospital and Kate Mignosa was one of three students at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Carol A. Ghiloni Oncology Fellowship by Kate Mignosa, CSON 2019
I had the opportunity to work as a Carol A. Ghiioni Oncology Fellow this summer at Massachusetts General Hospital. This 10-week, full-time internship is designed to expose senior nursing students to the wide and evolving field of oncology nursing. The balance of this program included three rotations on MGH inpatient oncology units and one rotation in outpatient observations in departments such as the Burr Proton Center, the Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies, Palliative Care, and the Pediatric Hematology/ Oncology Clinic.

When working on units Phillips 21, Lunder 9, and Lunder 10, we had the opportunity to work with preceptors and understand closely how nurses arrange their working days and responsibilities. When working multiple days in a row we had the chance to develop relationships with patients and feel like we were contributing to their care teams. The outpatient observations provided valuable perspectives both on what oncology nurses can do professionally and on what oncology patients experience in different phases of their care. I also had the opportunity to attend a research symposium on immunotherapy, a field of treatment I had previously known very little about. It was exciting then to be able to see this be used on the floors we were working on.

Throughout the summer, I was impressed constantly by the expertise, intelligence and knowledge the nurses I worked with possessed. However, I was even more acutely struck by their humanity and compassion for their patients. This program is tailored to the learning of students with a passionate desire to gain more knowledge and experience in oncology care. I enjoyed thoroughly getting to work with excellent preceptors and appreciate the willingness of these individuals to teach about their field of expertise. I would highly recommend the experience to future students and could not be more grateful for the chance to have been involved in this fellowship program.

Kristin Sullivan: SDF Oncology Fellowship Testimonial
My experience this summer as a Susan D. Flynn Oncology Fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital was invaluable. I came into this summer thinking that I wanted to be a pediatric oncology nurse, and I left the program truly feeling like a nurse for the first time. I became interested in this field because my mom is a pediatric oncology nurse. I had the opportunity to shadow her a couple of times prior to this summer and immediately knew oncology was my calling. I was inspired by the resiliency and strength of the kids I met, despite the horrible disease they were fighting. I saw the complexity of the care my mom provides on a daily basis and felt her passion and deep love for her patients and their families. I desired to make a difference in the lives of my future patients and their families the way my mother did. I wanted to help them through their hardest days and do whatever I could to make their days a little brighter.

This summer, I was able to follow that passion and start down the road to becoming a pediatric oncology nurse. During the 8 weeks I spent at Boston Children’s Hospital, I had the opportunity to rotate through three different floors – general oncology, bone marrow transplant, and neuro-oncology. On each floor, I worked alongside a nurse and helped care for those patients, ranging in age from six months to years old with a wide array of diagnoses. Under the guidance of the nurses and the hands-on experience I was given, I learned the roles and responsibilities of a pediatric oncology nurse and gained confidence and independence in these tasks. The lessons that I learned from my patients and their families, through their highs and lows, are what will stick with me the most. I had the privilege of helping care for a 13-year-old patient in the final days of her life, consoling a mother whose five-year-old daughter was just diagnosed with cancer, and celebrating a “bubble parade” with a patient as he finished his final treatment. Moments like these showed me what it truly means to be a pediatric oncology nurse and will stick with me as I continue in my nursing career. Overall, this fellowship was instrumental in affirming my desire to be a pediatric oncology nurse and has given me the foundation both in nursing skills and compassionate care to go forward and pursue this goal.

Gianna Bender: SDF Oncology Fellowship Testimonial
This past summer, I had the fortunate opportunity to serve as a Susan D. Flynn Oncology Nursing Fellow at Boston Children’s Hospital. Over the course of eight weeks, I rotated between the three floors of neuro-oncology, general oncology, and bone marrow transplant. At each unit, I had a nurse preceptor, who guided me through various nursing skills and responsibilities. These individuals were immensely passionate about the care they provided, passing such knowledge on. As a result of their teaching, I performed many new nursing skills which increased my ability to act independently in the nursing role. My preceptors ensured I was a part of difficult conversations as well, improving my ability to discuss end-of-life care and comfort to both patients and families. At the conclusion of the internship, I presented an evidence-based practice proposal to hospital leadership on cold-cap therapy as a psychosocial coping mechanism for chemotherapy-induced alopecia.

I feel immensely more competent in caring for both pediatric oncology patients and their families. I understand in great detail much of the textbook knowledge and skills necessary for such care. I have taken an immense step in my ability to work in the role of a nurse. Of utmost importance, however, I learned advocacy. Through the patients I cared for, evident. The nurse is positioned in a powerful role to provide comfort and good to families during the most difficult times; I understand the magnitude of this responsibility in greater detail now, and the ways a nurse can aid in the search for meaning. I am immensely j grateful to Mr. Flpn and the staff of Boston Children’s Hospital for the incredible opportunity, as it has instilled immense insight into the incredible care we can provide.