New Carilion cancer center is much more than a makeover

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by Marjolijn Bijlefeld

In February, Carilion Clinic opened its new cancer center in Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. The 32-private-room unit commands spectacular views of the Roanoke Valley and the mountains from its vantage point on the 10th floor. Those details matter, says Tricia Kingery, a registered nurse who is director of the in-patient oncology unit. “We have large rooms and lounges so we can provide confidential care and compassion in a better atmosphere to cancer patients from the newly diagnosed to those facing the end of their lives.  We have patients here for six weeks to eight weeks at a time. Having a big, bright room and wide hallways where they can walk is important to them.”

Certified oncology nurse Mary Ward recalls that when the unit was across the street, on the third floor of the rehab center, infection control for these immune-compromised patients was more difficult, and private conversations were hampered in shared rooms. “Newly diagnosed patients and their families have a lot to deal with. It’s not something we wanted to talk about in a semi-private room. Providing end-of-life care was also difficult. We were juggling constantly, moving patients from one room to another to afford them some private time with family and staff.”

That often meant moving several people “to make the pieces fit,” says Ward.  Each move cost staff at least a half hour, because all the furniture went with the patient, and each room needed to be cleaned.

The new clinic is much more than a makeover, however. It includes new beds and diagnostic equipment that couldn’t be retrofitted into an old building. And now that the cancer treatment unit is in the same building, surgical cancer patients are transferred to the unit post-operatively so nurses who better understand their care and condition can care for them.

That was rarely possible when the cancer unit was across the street. So cancer patients might find themselves next to patients preparing to return home. The old cancer unit was more of a medical unit — providing chemotherapy and other medical services. Now the surgical and medical patients are together. “This puts our whole team closer together and available,” says Kingery.

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