Nurses are essential in the healthcare journey of patients. They often see a patient before and after their diagnosis and know how a few words could change a patient's life. They are responsible for administering medication, assessing a patient's needs, collaborating with physicians, and implementing the physician's orders. Along with their daily duties, they advocate and provide emotional support to patients and their families. Nurses ensure that the patients receive the best care physically and emotionally, but sometimes they are dealing with issues themselves. Still, they don't allow that to take away from the care they provide their patients.
Darnika Vaughn, RN Assistant Manager of T6/T7 Ortho/Neuro, was a nurse at a rehab facility when her husband was diagnosed with Lymphoma. This rare cancer affects the lymphatic system, which is responsible for fighting off germs. In this moment, she was now the family member of a patient that needed support. As a medical-surgical nurse, she had an understanding of what the physician was explaining, but she wanted to understand fully. To provide the best support to her husband, Vaughn decided to search for a position in oncology.
“I came to JPS Health Network to specifically learn oncology,” Vaughn said. “My husband had just been diagnosed with Lymphoma. We were going to our doctor appointments, and I didn't know what they were telling me. My husband said, ‘well, you're a nurse. Shouldn't you know all of this?’ Medical-surgical nursing is different from oncology. I wondered what the doctors and tests were saying. I was just so unsure, so I told him, ‘I am going to learn how to take care of you better.’”
Vaughn applied to JPS hoping to find an oncology position. She wanted to use the experience of caring for patients in the same situation as her husband so she could learn more about the diagnosis and see if they were offering him the best treatments.
“When I initially applied to JPS, they were persistent on me going to a medical-surgical floor, and I didn't want that because that was my current job. I needed experience in oncology,” Vaughn said. “I remember interviewing with the manager of T7, and she asked me, ‘do you want to work with oncology patients?’ I was so relieved and thought, ‘I'm going to be able to better care for my husband.’”
"I was fascinated with learning these new things in my nursing career. It was rewarding because I was doing something for my husband and giving back to my patients. The amount of experience I learned from the JPS Oncology team is priceless. Nothing can replace that."
The determination from Vaughn granted her a job on the JPS Oncology team. Just as she believed, the position allowed her to obtain the knowledge needed to understand her husband's needs after his diagnosis. It also made her aware of the questions she needed to ask.
“By working with oncology patients at JPS, I learned about my husband's diagnosis and treatment,” Vaughn said. “I also had an opportunity to experience a patient with the same diagnosis as my husband, which allowed me to know that he was getting an excellent treatment plan because we give the same here. I also was able to understand all of the tests. Having this experience gave me comfort in knowing that my husband's oncology facility wasn't misleading us.”
Although she searched for this job to better prepare herself to care for her husband, she still had the duty of being a nurse to patients in similar situations. This personal experience gave her a new way of thinking in her career. The relatability allows her to better explain to her patients what the doctors are saying and help them understand what questions to ask.
“The experience taught me so much as a nurse and as a person caring for a sick loved one,” Vaughn said. “I've been through this, and I can see my patients that are going through this, which gives me a more caring role. I had to be the wife that was supporting my husband. So, I understand how our patients feel when sitting on that side. They want to know and be involved, but must ask the right medical questions. And that was something I struggled with.”
Since starting her position at JPS in 2012, Vaughn’s husband unfortunately passed, but her coworkers and her passion for caring and helping to educate patients is what fuels her each day.
“I feel like I have a purpose. I've learned here at JPS, and I feel I can pass along that knowledge I've obtained to the new nurses coming in,” Vaughn said. “I was fascinated with learning these new things in my nursing career. It was rewarding because I was doing something for my husband and giving back to my patients. The amount of experience I learned from the JPS Oncology team is priceless. Nothing can replace that."