Judy Campbell says she became a cancer nurse by "default." Now, she can't imagine doing anything else.
Campbell has been caring for Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center patients for 34 years. She's currently a clinical nurse in the center's Long-Term Follow-up (LTFU) Department, which helps patients deal with their recovery after they leave the hospital.
Most of Campbell's work is by phone, answering calls from former patients — and sometimes their physicians — from all over the country. Transplants leave patients vulnerable to numerous health and lifestyle concerns, including graft-vs.-host disease and increased risk of infection. When former patients encounter health issues, they naturally wonder how those issues might relate to their transplant. Campbell and her colleagues respond to their concerns with the information they need to address their situations.
"I like the communication with patients," said Campbell. "We all feel like we're making a difference in their lives. We have patients who received transplants 20 or 30 years ago who still call us. We're familiar with them and know what they've gone through."
Campbell originally wanted to be a cardiac nurse when she applied for a job at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD, in 1966. Instead, she was assigned to the cancer institute.
"I loved it," she said. "The work was very satisfying and still is. You see the strength and courage of patients going through so much and you feel like you're a part of helping them get through it."
During her three years at NIH, Campbell worked on a ward with leukemia patients. At the time, the odds of surviving leukemia were slim, so when she got a chance to work for a team in Seattle that was pioneering the use of bone-marrow transplants to treat the disease, Campbell took it. "It was an opportunity to come to a wonderful part of the country and to be involved in something new and hopeful, " she said.
For the first part of her career, Campbell provided bedside care to hospitalized patients and was involved with nursing education. For the last 14 years, she has worked in the Long-Term Follow-up Department. Although now officially employed by the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the relatively new clinic for Fred Hutchinson, Campbell says the camaraderie she felt when she first arrived in Seattle 34 years ago remains.
"The patients and staff have kept me here," she said. "It's a great group. Everybody's invested in providing patients with the finest care possible."