Every Step of the Way
Treating cancer is more than addressing the
physical condition. So much of the healing process
is addressing the emotional needs of the patient.
As a liaison between the Joan Karnell Cancer
Center and the surgical oncologists at Pennsylvania
Hospital, Susan Kruse, RN, BSN, OCN, a surgical
oncology nurse coordinator, understands the body
and mind connection and works with patients to
realize both physical and mental well-being.
When patients first meet Susan, it is at the onset of care prior
to testing or surgery. During this visit, she
takes their history and if they are scheduled
for surgery explains the pre-surgery process.
More importantly, however, she lets patients
know that she is a resource – whether
it is to answer questions, explain a treatment,
or simply offer support.
“The most common question I get from newly diagnosed patients
is ‘What do I do next?’ said Kruse. “They want to
know what is expected of them,what they are responsible for in terms
of the care.” It is a stressful time and can easily be overwhelming,
but Kruse is committed to helping each patient have peace of mind.
Understanding that each phase of treatment brings with it new questions
and concerns, Kruse makes every effort stay connected. “I usually
visit the patients in the hospital after the surgery to see how they
are doing and talk to them about the next step in their treatment.”
“What I find especially beneficial to patients is when I talk
to them about the ‘team approach’ at the Joan Karnell
Cancer Center," said Kruse. She explains to patients about the multidisciplinary
team meetings where specialists meet to discuss new patients and collaborate
on the best course of treatment. Susan adds that patients appreciate
this comprehensive approach to their treatment.
Susan has been proactive in providing care and support for breast
cancer patients. She is active in helping recruit patients for breast
cancer studies. She also looks at ways to improve patient care. One
example is her work with lymphedema patients.
Following their surgery, patients may experience discomfort and limited
mobility in the affected arm. Kruse felt that some form of physical
therapy soon after surgery would help patients minimize this discomfort
and decrease the risk of swelling. She worked with the Joan Karnell
Cancer Center to obtain a grant to fund a part-time occupational therapist
to work exclusively with lymphedema patients.
The program has been instrumental in helping patients experience a
Also, she is actively involved in several of the Joan Karnell Cancer
Center support groups and programs and is a co-facilitator
for two groups – Facing Forward and Person-to-Person.
The Joan Karnell Cancer Center has a variety of programs and
services dedicated to helping patients cope with every aspect of
cancer. Several of the programs have been especially beneficial
to breast cancer patients. These include the Cancer
Risk Evaluation Program and the Surgical