Leading By Example in Oncology Nursing



Lauren Yakelis, B.S.N., RN, holds the position of manager of stem cell transplant and immunotherapy at Ochsner MD Anderson Cancer Center, bringing with her an impressive 13-year tenure as a nurse who specializes in hematology, oncology and stem cell transplant care. Her journey has seen her serve as the operations coordinator and manager overseeing the inpatient oncology and stem cell transplant floor, where her exceptional leadership not only elevated quality metrics but also earned the department the coveted Patient Safety Department of the Year award.

Lauren’s leadership style is characterized by her innate ability to lead by example, often extending beyond the realm of duty to perform thoughtful acts of kindness that go unnoticed by many. For instance, she has taken the initiative to personally wash the clothes of some of her hospitalized patients, recognizing the inconvenience that these extended hospital stays have on them. Such a seemingly small gesture holds profound significance for patients and their caregivers, reflecting Lauren’s deep empathy.

But her compassion extends even further. Lauren orchestrated a heartwarming Christmas reunion for an admitted mother undergoing a stem cell transplant, ensuring she could share the holiday with her children. In a discreet manner, Lauren compiled a list of desired gifts from the patient’s mother and orchestrated the collection of donations to purchase them.

Lastly, one particularly remarkable instance showcases Lauren’s unwavering dedication. Faced with a patient unexpectedly admitted from the clinic 26 days after-transplant and lacking essential post-transplant medications, which are not carried by our hospital pharmacy, Lauren recognized the urgency. She personally transported the patient’s mother to the nearby apartment to retrieve the patient’s necessary medication and back to Ochsner after her shift, alleviating the financial strain of ordering a car service, which was a huge concern to the family, and exemplifying her commitment to patient well-being.

Beyond her role as a compassionate caregiver, Lauren played a pivotal role in launching Ochsner Health’s groundbreaking adult CAR-T program — the first of its kind in Louisiana. This innovative program has brought revolutionary treatments to vulnerable patients with cancer across Louisiana, Mississippi and south Alabama. Lauren spearheaded this initiative, undertaking a comprehensive educational journey by leading a multihospital collaboration to understand how CAR-T programs were operationalized at different institutions. She meticulously trained nursing staff across various departments, collaborated with providers to establish protocols, and crafted electronic medical records flowsheets for streamlined documentation of critical patient indicators such as cytokine release syndrome and immune effector cell-associated neurotoxicity syndrome. Lauren’s efforts successfully onboarded three CAR-T medications into their program, significantly broadening the spectrum of treatment options for three distinct patient populations that previously faced limited prospects.

She stands as an exemplary role model for nurses, simultaneously illuminating the pivotal influence that nurses can have within the realm of health care.

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