Note: This article did not appear in the print version of Froedtert Today; it only appears online.
Cancer Nurse Values Teamwork,Barb Burmeister, RN, OCN, BS, is a cancer nurse in the Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin. She says one of the hardest parts of her job is remembering former patients who might have benefited from recent discoveries: “You think, ‘Boy, we could have saved more people, but the technology just wasn’t there.’”
The BMT Program uses infusions of adult blood stem cells and bone marrow cells to help patients recover from high-dose chemotherapy. The program also provides a new therapy called non-myeloablative transplant (also known as “mini-transplant”) that harnesses immune reactions to fight cancer directly. It is just one of the innovations Burmeister has seen during her nearly 20 years in the BMT field.
Burmeister started her working career as a parochial school teacher in Big Bend, Wisconsin. In 1986, she earned her nursing degree and joined the BMT Unit at Milwaukee County Hospital. She transferred with the unit to Froedtert Hospital in 1995.
Bringing More to the Table
Burmeister is actively involved in shared governance at Froedtert and works on several hospital committees. She is a big advocate of nurses taking a prominent role in patient care. “Nurses have a lot to bring to the table,” she says.
One thing that keeps Burmeister motivated at Froedtert & Medical College of Wisconsin is the importance the organization places on nursing. “Since nurses are with the patients much of the day, physicians value our input,” she says. “Here, nurses and doctors really work as a team.”
Celebrating LifeWhen not on duty in the BMT Unit, Burmeister finds plenty of time to cheer for the Brewers at Miller Park (“That shows you I’m not a pessimist!”). She brings the same spirit to patient care, noting that she particularly admires the people who take part in clinical trials. “I really appreciate the sacrifice that some patients go through,” she says. “I think they feel that even if they aren’t cured, at least someone else down the road might be helped. Our respect for those patients is incredible.”
Burmeister says one high point for the entire BMT staff is the annual “Celebration of Life” — an end-of-the-year luncheon for former patients that brings together hundreds of people. “A lot of the patients know each other from their time in the clinic,” she says. “They have a chance to talk with each other again, plus visit with the doctors and nurses who took care of them.” The event gives Burmeister a great deal of personal satisfaction: “If not for BMT therapy, the majority of these patients probably wouldn’t be alive.”
Date: September 2005
Online Editor(s): Christopher Sadler