Mastering Mesothelioma


September 17, 2012

The cover story of the September issue of Advance for Nurses highlights Penn Medicine's Mesothelioma and Pleural Program, and the nurses who play a key role in a multidisciplinary team that offers cutting-edge interventions for patients with a tough disease. Launched in 2008, the program has become a pioneer for lung-sparing surgery combined with photodynamic therapy. Melissa Culligan, BSN, RN, director of clinical services is often the first contact for patients, who travel from all over the world for treatment. "It just warms my heart every week to see how we present these very sad situations and how well we all work together," said Culligan. "It's not a program run by a surgeon or the medical oncologist, it's truly a multidisciplinary group… This group looks at all the options and then takes into consideration the patient's wishes. That's really what sets us apart." The procedure can take up to 14 hours, with the OR team painstakingly stripping away cancer from the lining of the chest cavity. As a staff nurse/circulating nurse in the operating room and a member of the thoracic team, Julie Sarmanian, MBA, BSN, BS, RN, CNOR, moves about the room ready to anticipate any need of the surgical team, which Sarmanian says might include "support for the team itself, keeping up with how everyone's feeling, and cheering ourselves on." After surgery, patients may spend several days in the surgical ICU before transferring to a specialized thoracic intermediate care unit. That's where nurses like Katie Grasing, BSN, RN, take over. In between walking, chest PT and pain control, Grasing finds her most important role is often that of positive thinker. "I remind them, 'You haven't taken a step back, you just haven't made a step forward today.' I try to get them in the mindset that tomorrow will be a better day."

Read more at Advance for Nurses.