From helping patients at the hospital to helping dogs at the shelter, Pattie offers hope and support.
How long have you worked at UCLA?
I've been a nurse for more than 29 years and have worked at UCLA for 23 years. When I first came to UCLA, I was a traveling nurse and was only supposed to stay 13 weeks! Through the years, I've worked in various oncology units at UCLA and now the Solid Oncology Program at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica.
What are your job responsibilities?
I oversee the program's clinical operations and manage staff development. My role is to make sure all our oncology patients receive the highest level and most compassionate care by facilitating communication among the nurses and physicians in all departments. I also work with hospice care and social workers to arrange care for patients after discharge, when needed, to make sure that we continue helping our patients to get what they want at the end of their lives.
How do you cope with the emotions of your job?
I cry and get sad sometimes, but there are always other patients who need my help. As a teenager, my sister, who is also an oncology nurse, and I helped to care for my grand-mother, who had colon cancer, and for my mother, who had breast cancer. I have personal experience with cancer care and I always try to help make a difference for our patients.
I don't think oncology nursing is depressing. I've learned that if you give someone a peaceful death, that's a journey in itself. I think it's difficult sometimes, but we gather strength by celebrating the patients who do recover.
What do you find most rewarding about working as an oncology nurse?
When a patient says, "That made a difference." It's being able to make a difference, even if it's a small difference - like getting ice for patients after their treatment. Cancer patients are so appreciative because they've been through so much and have a new appreciation of life.
What is the most memorable experience you've had at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica?
I have so many special memories in my heart from patients. I have attended weddings, baby showers, birthday parties and funerals for patients. A few years ago at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, we cared for a 20-year-old sarcoma patient who had to have his leg amputated. He loved to surf and our wonderful social worker, Kristen, arranged for a pro surfer to come visit with him through the Make A Wish Foundation. The patient and his friends got to hangout with this surfer for several hours. The patient was ecstatic and I am glad he had that time before his death.
I also had a brain tumor patient, who found out that I didn't eat meat and never had been to In-N-Out Burger. He came in one day and insisted on taking me out to lunch and brought me to In-N-Out to have a grilled cheese, animal-style burger, without meat. He couldn't believe that, living in California, I'd never been to one.
What is the volunteer work you do at the animal shelter?
My daughter and I have been volunteering for a non-euthanizing animal shelter in Canoga Park for three years. It started out as my daughter's Girl Scouts' volunteer project, and we were supposed to work only 15 hours! My daughter and I walk the medium to small dogs, play with them and give them human contact. If someone is interested in adopting a dog, services are available there to help match the right dogs to people. I always hang dog photos in the break room and have convinced two of my friends to adopt dogs from the shelter.
What do you enjoy doing to unwind?
I love to exercise, ski and volunteer at the shelter. I enjoy spending time with my husband, 16-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter.