For Urology Nurses and Associates Week, (November 1-7) at BCAN we are highlighting a few nurses making a difference in the lives of people with bladder cancer.
Mary Dunn, NP, OCN
Mary Dunn is an Adult Nurse Practitioner at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has a multidisciplinary role working with the Urologists and Medical Oncologists, providing comprehensive care to patients with genitourinary malignancies. Her unique role allows her to provide autonomous patient-centered care while having access to some of the top providers and researchers in the field of Urologic Oncology. She also coordinates the Testicular Cancer Survivorship Clinic, which is a monthly clinic formed as a part of a grant from the LIVESTRONG Foundation. She is one of the coordinators/providers for the new Prostate Cancer Survivorship Clinic and Von-Hippel Lindau Clinical Care Center. She is on the Board of the Triangle Oncology Nursing Society, which is the local chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS), and a member of the Society of Urology Nurses and Associates (SUNA). She recently helped form the North Carolina Triangle Chapter of BCAN, and is proudly serving as Secretary. As an advocate of the nursing profession, she enjoys educating her patients and the community about the ever-expanding and important roles of nurses and Nurse Practitioners.
How did you decide to become a urology nurse?
Urology adopted me! I’ve been a practicing oncology nurse for almost 9 years. When I began my career as an NP, I took a multidisciplinary role in Urology and Medical Oncology caring for patients with Genitourinary Malignancies. I had a lot to learn about the urology aspect of my job, and was fortunate enough to be mentored by Heather Schultz, a fellow nurse practitioner who has over 8 years of Urology experience.
What are the biggest challenges of the job?
The biggest challenges of the job are the complexities of our patient population. Many times our patients are not only living with and being treated for cancer, but have other medical comorbidities that require a collaborative approach to care. They face fear and uncertainty about the future, suffer side effects from cancer-related treatments, and have to balance physical, emotional, and psychological stressors. It is a challenge as a provider to ensure that we are addressing all of the needs of our patients and their loved ones before, during, and after their cancer treatment, but I also find it one of the most rewarding aspects of what I do.
What is most rewarding about this work?
It is hard to summarize the most rewarding aspects of my job. It is an honor to be able to care for cancer patients and their families during some of their most vulnerable times. It is a great responsibility and quite humbling for people to put such a great deal of trust in me to deliver their care and meet their needs at a time in their life full of change and uncertainty. I am rewarded every day by my patients; by their courage, compassion, and perseverance. I’m also fortunate to be able to collaborate with and work alongside leading experts in the field of Urologic Oncology including nurses, physicians, and scientists.
In your opinion, what are the biggest needs in bladder cancer? What would you like to see change? (in addition to finding a cure!)
Hands down, we need research funding for bladder cancer. Bladder cancer is in the top 5 of highest overall annual cost in our country with the highest per patient treatment cost, yet is in the bottom tier for research funding. That math does not add up! Health care providers and bladder cancer survivors should be empowered to advocate for better research funding. Another need is to educate our bladder cancer patients about sexual dysfunction as a potential consequence of bladder cancer treatment. This is a topic that can be uncomfortable for providers and patients alike, but, as I’ve learned from many of my own patients, is an important quality of life issue before, during, and after treatment. Education is key. Discussing and treating sexual dysfunction for both men and women should be incorporated into care management of bladder cancer patients.
What can be done to raise awareness about bladder cancer?
Providers, patients, and family members can make a difference by raising awareness about bladder cancer. Participating in local BCAN walks, speaking to groups (professional organizations, support groups, webinars, local/regional/national conferences, etc), publishing articles, advocating on social media, writing letters to politicians, the list could go on. I believe that nurses are natural-born patient advocates and are qualified to do any of the aforementioned awareness activities. I find it very rewarding to participate in BCAN walks and give talks geared toward other nursing professionals about bladder cancer- it gets people talking and thinking! I’ve had a perfect stranger stop me and ask about bladder cancer when I was wearing my BCAN T-shirt, which proves that even seemingly simple things like wearing a shirt or carrying a BCAN mug can get the conversation started!