The patient had just received a cancer diagnosis and had a lot weighing on his mind before his PET scan. But Amy Conklin, RN, BSN, and Kelli Schlarbaum, senior PET technologist, soon put him at ease.
“Later, this patient highlighted the rapport he had with Kelli and Amy,” says Jenny Houlihan, RN, MSN, nurse clinician in University of Iowa Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center. “He said they were so positive and really made it a fun experience with their interactions. They were difference makers for this patient.”
The fact that the procedure was “fun,” speaks volumes about the women. PET scans use radiopharmaceuticals to detect cancer cells, which have a higher metabolic rate than non-cancerous cells.
Conklin and Schlarbaum worked together for 14 years and know that providing outstanding care has ripple effects.
“Our team doesn’t just represent the PET center,” says Conklin. “We represent UI Hospitals & Clinics as a whole.”
Putting patients first
Many PET centers don’t have nurses, but UI Hospitals & Clinics has two on staff. Schlarbaum is grateful for Conklin’s mentorship and even has a nickname for her.
“I call her my pocket nurse,” says Schlarbaum. “Because she was always there as a resource when I needed her. I’ve learned so many things from Amy over the years, with patient care and rapport.”
Conklin, who recently retired after 33 years with UI Hospitals & Clinics, helped enhance and nurture the qualities Schlarbaum already possessed such as showing empathy, providing compassion, and listening.
“Amy has always been that bright spot in the PET center,” says Schlarbaum. “I’ll always remember her phenomenal care towards patients. She left each patient feeling like they were her main priority.”
Conklin praised her co-worker for her kindness and work ethic.
“When our patients come in, they’re hurting, they’re in pain, and they have terrible diagnoses,” she says. “Kelli always has their best interests at heart and works so hard. She and I developed a strong working relationship and friendship.”
A seamless patient experience
Conklin knows the cohesion and teamwork will continue while she’s spending time with her new granddaughter and doing mission work.
“We created a protocol and informational manual for new hires for a seamless transition during the orientation process,” she says. “And while I’m excited for retirement, I will miss the patient care.”
Nurses and technologists in the PET center will continue to work together for a positive patient experience.
“No one person can do everything, and all the women here are bright and exceptional,” says Conklin. “Everyone is ready to jump in to help. All the technologists and nurses here work together as a team.”