Greenebaum Cancer Center Recognizes Compassion of Care in Two Staff Members

For immediate release: January 09, 2017

The 2016 Greenebaum Compassion Award was recently bestowed on two University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center staff members.  Social worker Majbritt Jensen and nurse Melissa Lay, RN, were recognized by their coworkers for their extraordinary display of care and compassion for their patients and their family members.

Cancer Center namesakes Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum established the Compassion Award in 2007 to recognize staff members who are top exemplars of the special care the Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center is known for. Award recipients are those who tangibly demonstrate a willingness to go well beyond their normal duties to serve patients with the utmost  empathy, tenderness, and dignity.

Jensen, a social worker in the Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Unit, was nominated by Kathleen Ruehle, RN, OCN, the BMT Transplant Coordinator, for treating “all of her patients as VIPs.” Ruehle describes Jensen’s genuinely caring attitude as “palpable.”

Jensen has been the driving force the Allogeneic Patient Support Group for both pre- and post-transplant patients.  Ruehle says Jensen organized this group to meet twice a month and sends out reminders prior to each meeting via email and “rallies” the patients in clinic to attend the group.  She also ensures that a conference line is available to those patients who are unable to physically attend the group.

“Majbritt delights in witnessing the interaction between a patient 10 years post-transplant and a patient 1 month post-transplant. The support, the encouragement, the knowledge these patients are able to impart to each other is possible because of Majbritt’s willingness to facilitate this group,” Ruehle says.

Ruehle notes that during one particular group meeting, Jensen persuaded a patient, who had become increasingly despondent during a difficult hospital stay, to call in on the conference line. When the patient wasn’t very vocal during the meeting, Jensen facilitated a get-together between the patient and another post-transplant patient.  After the conversation, the patient had renewed hope for making it through the difficult treatment process.

“This happened because Majbritt took the time to facilitate this human connection,” Ruehle says. “Majbritt projects a warm, cheerful attitude to our patients. She loves people, works hard, and always tries to lift the spirits of those around her.”

Lay, a BMT nurse in Stoler Pavillion, was nominated by both Cora Goecke, Senior Quality Manager, and nurse Shykira Ross. Lay has been known to regularly send sympathy cards to the family members of patients who have passed, as well as thank you cards or encouragement cards to current patients in need of a little lift.  Goecke says Lay also sent flowers when a long time patient of hers passed away.

Goecke tells a story of one particularly busy day at the BMT clinic when a patient came in with a worsening rash that wasn’t responding to the prescribed medication.  Lay took the time to console the patient, speak with her about her regimen, then speak with the physician after the assessment and coordinated for the patient to try a new treatment that she could adhere to.

“She doesn’t stop to give directions to the next appointment; she walks with the patient personally,” Goecke says. “She doesn’t just grab someone from the team, she stops and sits with an overwhelmed patient or family member and performs the art of compassion with grace.”

Ross describes the effort Lay gives to all her patients as “100 percent.”  She says Lay is a source of information and assistance for all specialties in the Cancer Center and says that her colleagues describe Lay’s “sunny disposition as transformative, touching every life she enters.”

Lay’s colleagues feel grateful to know her, and recognize her efforts to help any patient as going above and beyond.  If she is concerned about a patient, Lay will call them directly to ask about their symptoms.  She makes sure the UMGCCC team is offering all the resources they can.  She checks counts and daily chemistries for each patient, and makes sure the team is providing as much comfort as possible for every patient.

The annual Compassion Award winners are selected from a highly competitive pool of individuals nominated by Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center staff members. A committee with representatives from various Cancer Center departments deliberates and selects the winners. As award recipients, Jensen and Lay each received a $2,500 cash award and had their names added to the Compassion Award display in the Stoler Pavilion waiting area.