Finding the Small Wins

Oncology Nursing NewsJune 2024
Volume 18
Issue 3

The winner of the 2024 Extraordinary Healer® award, Meaghan Mooney, BSN, RN, OCN, found a rewarding career caring for patients and their families, even after transitioning to a leadership role. Now, she uses her expertise to help children facing a parent's cancer diagnosis.

Meredith R. Cooper, MA, CCLS, LPC, (left) nominated Meaghan Mooney, BSN, RN, OCN, for the Extraordinary Healer award.

Meredith R. Cooper, MA, CCLS, LPC, (left) nominated Meaghan Mooney, BSN, RN, OCN, for the Extraordinary Healer award.

Meaghan Mooney, BSN, RN, OCN, was leaning toward a career in maternity and pediatrics while in nursing school at Fairfield University in Connecticut, when a surgical rotation on an oncology floor sent her down a completely different path. “I felt drawn to oncology,” Mooney says. “It’s a tough specialty, but that made it even more rewarding. It seemed like the perfect fit for me.”

Upon graduation, Mooney took a job at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, then moved to the oncology floor at Seton Medical Center Austin, part of the Ascension health care system in Texas. After about a year, she transferred to Texas Oncology, also in Austin, where she worked for almost 9 years. In 2019, Mooney rejoined Ascension as a quality and patient safety nurse for Ascension Medical Group before stepping into her concurrent role of chief of staff.

“As a Catholic health organization, Ascension promotes a culture of caring for the poor and vulnerable,” Mooney says. “That translates to the care provided for patients, especially those who are uninsured or underinsured. I appreciate that service to the community.”

Mooney’s position as chief of staff has taken her out of patient care, but she still helps cancer patients and their families as a member of the board of directors of Wonders & Worries, a nonprofit organization that provides support to children and teenagers during a parent’s serious illness or injury.

“While Wonders & Worries provides support for several types of medical conditions, the majority of their clients [include children with a parent] with a cancer diagnosis,” Mooney says. “They explain the parent’s diagnosis in an age-appropriate manner, and also help children work through any feelings or concerns they are experiencing. All of their services are provided free to the families.”

Mooney joined the board of Wonders & Worries in 2019 and quickly found herself in an advisory role because of her nursing background. “I also help with outreach and development, looking for ways that the organization can expand and connect with other referral bases,” she notes. “I’ve also chaired their annual fundraising gala for the past 2 years.”

Mooney really came through for Wonders & Worries when the organization needed a hospital room in which to film an educational video that would show young people where and how their loved ones receive treatment. Finding an available room locally proved challenging, so Mooney reached out to her alma mater, Fairfield University. “They have simulation labs that are set up to look exactly like a hospital room, so I asked if they would allow Wonders & Worries to film there,” she says. “It ended up being a great alternative that allowed Wonders & Worries to complete the project.”

From left: Meredith R. Cooper, MA, CCLS, LPC, and Meaghan Mooney, BSN, RN, OCN

From left: Meredith R. Cooper, MA, CCLS, LPC, and Meaghan Mooney, BSN, RN, OCN

Mooney has also mentored nurses who were new to oncology. “When you come out of nursing school, you’re just overwhelmed and scared that you’re going to make a mistake,” she explains. “I tried to make them feel comfortable asking questions. And I’m the kind of person who likes to do research, so I also created binders and cheat sheets regarding the most common things they would see and have to manage. I let them shadow me and explained to them why we were doing a particular procedure or test. Things like that helped them feel more connected to the care team and the patient.”

Mooney acknowledges the emotional challenges of working in oncology, but finds the work personally satisfying. “It can definitely take a toll on you because you have ups and downs,” she says. “You’re trying to find the small wins, whether it’s a patient whose symptoms have resolved or who had a good lab result, or someone who was able to go out to dinner with their children. We like to celebrate those little victories with them, so their victory is our victory, too. I’ve become an expert silver lining-finder. I will find it, and I will remind the patient of it.”

Nominations are now open for the 2025 CURE Extraordinary Healer award.

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