Former Brenner Childrens Cancer Patient Now Works Alongside Nurses Who Once Cared for Her

May 9, 2016

National Nurses Week 2016 Honors the Important Role of Nurses

As a registered nurse on the hematology-oncology unit at Brenner Children’s Hospital, Rachel Oliver Smith can totally relate to what her young cancer patients are going through.

Twenty years ago, she was a cancer patient herself at Brenner Children’s, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center’s pediatric hospital.

Diagnosed at age 4 with T-cell lymphoma, a form of blood cancer, Smith received chemotherapy treatments for two years at Brenner.

“As a patient, I remember picking toys out of the toy chest in the playroom, Christmas parties with other kids who were hospitalized and, of course, the medical scans and chemotherapy,” Smith said. “However, what I remember most about my time as a patient is the love and positive influence that the nurses gave to my family and me.”

Smith now works alongside many of the nurses who once treated her and inspired her to join their ranks. During this National Nurses Week, Smith credits her former nurse and current co-worker, Nancy Smith (no relation), with playing a large role in her wanting to work on the front lines of health care.

“Nancy watched me grow up and is like family to me,” Rachel Smith said. “Not only did she help treat my illness, she helped me emotionally. When I look back on my time as a patient, I’m inspired by the love and care Nancy and so many of the other nurses gave to me and my family. I’m truly honored to work alongside them.”

Nancy Smith, a pediatric nurse for 40 years, said she was thrilled when she learned that her former patient had accepted a position on the hematology-oncology unit in March of last year.

“Rachel showed such bravery as a patient and now she gets to help instill that bravery in other young patients as a nurse herself,” Nancy Smith said. “She has such a commitment and devotion to her patients and their families. She is one-of-a-kind and our unit is so blessed to have her.”
 Rachel Smith, in remission for the past 19 years, still checks in as a patient at Brenner Children’s every two years for a follow-up evaluation.

“Brenner Children’s offers former patients the opportunity to receive their checkups at the children’s hospital — it doesn’t matter their current age,” she said. “Continuing a relationship with professionals you’ve known for years certainly adds a sense of comfort and peace to these appointments.”

Brenner Children’s has been treating children for 30 years as the only full-service pediatric hospital in northwest North Carolina. Brenner Children’s provides care in more than 30 areas of pediatric medicine.  

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