The infusion clinic at Paris Community Hospital is comprised of a small group of extremely compassionate and caring nursing staff members. (Suzanne Williams/The Prairie Press)

Convenient for the patients

Hospital infusion clinic allows patients to avoid long drives for treatments

Lung cancer patient Mary Hackett prefers to receive her immunotherapy treatment in a small, safe and comfortable family like atmosphere found at the Paris Community Hospital infusion clinic.

“If I was not sick then it would be a total pleasure to come visit this clinic,” said Kansas resident Hackett, who was joking around with registered nurse Mary Baker as she drew blood and administered medicine through Hackett’s PICC line, which is used for long-term intravenous antibiotics, nutrition or medications and blood draws.

Hackett is receiving her intravenous treatment at the local facility instead of driving more than an hour away to a larger medical facility. Her immunotherapy treatment is a type of cancer treatment that boosts the body's natural defenses to fight cancer. She is using that approach because her cancer was no longer responding to chemotherapy.

She was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 2016 after being misdiagnosed as having bronchitis and then pneumonia before a specialist discovered she had lung cancer.

“I receive really good care here. The gals are all thoughtful and professional all at the same time,” said Hackett.

Registered nurse and infusion services manager Elizabeth Steber, who has worked in the clinic for longer than two decades, said the PCH infusion clinic is carefully designed to provide exceptional care and treatment to patients ensuring dignity and privacy, while also providing education and support. The infusion clinic treats patients with cancer and a variety of disorders requiring IV therapy such as long-term antibiotics, central and PICC line maintenance, hydration therapy, enzyme replacement and injections for osteoporosis patients as part of the bone health project at PCH.

“Our clinic is for any outpatient who requires IV treatment and injections,” added Steber.

The clinic, a vital part of the hospital for many years, was located in different areas of the medical facility until approximately 10 years ago when Alan Russell and the Cancer Friendship Group were instrumental in finding a permanent location for the clinic in what use to be Dr. Reed Sutton’s office area. After Sutton retired, the area became the infusion clinic’s permanent location.

“The hospital remodeled this area in 2007 and we have called it home since then,” said Steber, noting the area was expanded last year. “It is more efficient having it in this location.”

The clinic provides a vital service to the community of Paris and surrounding small towns and villages said Steber and fellow registered nurse Mary Barker, who is a long-time nurse in the infusion clinic. Barker began working in the specialty clinic in 1998.

Both of these accomplished nurses, who have received the Daisy Award recognizing their compassion, say the PCH infusion clinic offers top quality patient care and convenience for patients who would otherwise have to travel for many miles for treatment.

“We are here for the community. It’s often a hardship for patients to travel long distances for this type of treatment,” said Steber, noting most infusion patients require daily therapy that can last for 1 to 10 hours per treatment.

For example, a PCH infusion patient was traveling to Indianapolis, Ind., five times a week for infusions, which was both costly because of fuel and also time consuming.

“It can be a real hardship for patients and their families to travel lengthy distances to larger medical facilities for treatment,” said Steber adding, “Within the walls of our community hospital we have a wealth of resources, one of which is our infusion clinic.”

More than convenience, the local clinic provides support, compassion and education during treatment.

“This is a specialty area that requires a very specific type of nurse and health care employees.They must possess extreme compassion and patience,” said Steber adding, “Every patient’s cancer journey is unique and for a nurse to help them through their journey the nurse must be compassionate and caring and do their job well. Our nurses are communicators, teachers and listeners who possess IV skills, and they are very organized and detailed oriented because of the high risk drugs we administer and the type of patients we treat.”

She also said the physicians and nurses and nursing support staff such as certified nursing assistants and volunteers work closely together to meet the overall needs of each individual patient.

The clinic boasts of having top quality specialized physicians that practice medicine at the local hospital such as visiting oncologists, rheumatologists, endocrinologists and various other doctors specializing in other IV health issues.

“Each patient's cancer is a unique disease and each patient’s IV therapy is different from another. We provide a large variety of different regimens depending on the patient and the doctor’s treatment plan,” explained Steber adding “Our staff has the knowledge to deal with the unique situations.”

The infusion clinic nurses are certified through continuing education by the Oncology Nursing Society.

Another benefit of the local clinic is the location. Being centrally located in the hospital allows the infusion clinic patients to use the resources of the clinical physicians and if necessary the emergency room.

“It’s a luxury to be part of the hospital,” Steber noted.

In an effort to make patients as comfortable as possible and to educate them and their families, the hospital has an extremely active volunteer program called the Cancer Friendship Group Started in November 2016, the friendship group of cancer survivors volunteer to provide support, fellowship and education to current patients.

“The volunteers are a wonderful asset to the oncology patients, who are in their cancer journeys. Often the oncology patients are scared, overwhelmed and are experiencing various other emotions. It’s nice to have the volunteer survivors to talk with patients and let them know that somebody understands how they feel and they understand exactly what they are going through because the cancer survivors have been where the patients are,” said Steber.

Baker echoed Steber and added, “These volunteers help keep our patients comfortable, answer questions that only can be answered by a fellow cancer patient, give advice and pointers and make the cancer journey little bit easier. They are very beneficial to the patients.”

Steber said the infusion clinic also has a buddy system, in which cancer survivors are paired up with cancer patients according to similar types of cancer. Steber noted every member of the infusion clinic team is a critical portion of the patients’ treatments.

The infusion clinic has three full-time, one part-time and approximately seven on-call nurses and numerous certified nursing assistants along with various specialized physicians creating a highly specialized team of health care providers to tackle any type of infusion treatment regimen.

“No one person on our team is any more important than another. We are all here to take care of the patients and their needs,” Steber stated.

The PCH infusion clinic is open daily and treats patients from 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and is open for limited hours on the weekends and holidays according to patient needs.

Steber added, “Cancer and infusion treatment is not the end. Here at our clinic we give our patients hope. We cry with them. We laugh with them. We talk with them. And, we provide excellent care.

“One of my favorite sayings is, ‘They don’t care how much you know until then know how much you care,’” Steber said with a smile.

Cancer survivors wishing to volunteer in the infusion clinic are encouraged to call Steber at 466-4579. The volunteers must undergo background checks and complete HIPPA and hospital training.

“It’s a process to become a volunteer but they make a difference. They can provide a warm blanket and simply talk to the patients but the impact is significant,” added Baker.

The Prairie Press

101 Central Avenue Paris, IL 61944