HealthONE - January 11, 2023

Experienced nurses lay the foundation for the unit’s growth

Experts estimate that every three minutes, a patient is diagnosed with blood cancer. Among Coloradoans, more than 2,500 patients received this life-changing news last year. Accounting for 10 percent of all cancer diagnoses and 9 percent of all cancer deaths, blood cancer encompasses several types of cancer including leukemia (affecting blood and bone marrow), lymphoma (affecting the lymph system), and myeloma (affecting plasma). As part of its ongoing effort to provide accessible, high-quality cancer care, Swedish Medical Center is expanding its campus to include a new northwest tower that will house its expanding blood cancer care program. The tower, which is currently under construction, is anticipated to open in 2023.

Specialized Unit for Blood Cancer

Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center brings together the strength of the global Sarah Cannon Cancer Network with the experienced, personalized care patients expect from Swedish Medical Center. While Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center provides comprehensive, advanced cancer care for a full range of cancers, its blood cancer care program has become highly regarded in its own right. With nationally recognized physician specialists and a highly trained, tenured nursing team, the hospital’s blood cancer care program is being expanded so its trusted team can change the lives of even more patients in the metro Denver area and beyond.

“The expansion of our blood cancer care program allows us to provide care for even more patients from the south side of Denver, the front range and our mountain communities, bringing highly specialized providers and a robust treatment program closer to where they live and work,” explains Janina Bilem, RN, director of inpatient oncology services at Swedish Medical Center. “This year, we are moving from a 13-bed unit to a 20-bed unit; then several months after that, we will be able to move to a 30-bed unit.” Bilem explains that this development provides space to consolidate blood cancer patients to a singular location with access to state-of-the-art technology and specially designed amenities. “The unit will be quite a bit larger, making it easier for the nursing team to care for patients,” Pam Grams, RN, a 40-year oncology nurse at Swedish Medical Center. Fellow RN Annie Lubline adds, “The new unit will be inclusive to families as well. These considerations will make it an even better environment for blood cancer patients who often have very long inpatient stays.” The upgraded facility will have new equipment and sweeping mountain views as well.

A Foundation of Experienced Nurses

One of the unique aspects of the blood cancer care program at Swedish Medical Center is the strength of its nursing team. “The longevity of the nurses we have in the program and the skill set of our nursing team is quite robust,” Bilem details. “We have nurses who have been working at Swedish for 20, 30, 40 years. We have a very low turnover rate, and our team is invested in the hospital and in this program.” Members of the nursing team all are chemotherapy certified with several receiving OCN (Oncology Certified Nurse) certifications as well. “We often get top ratings in patient satisfaction because our nurses work hard to make our patients comfortable and we know the resources we need to care for them,” Lubline notes.

Treatment protocols often require a blood cancer patient to undergo lengthy hospital stays, which can be overwhelming, especially when faced with a new diagnosis. But the colleagues at Swedish are experienced and patients quickly discover that they can be trusted. “Our patients recognize that the nursing team knows what we are doing and how to support them. It really helps them to not be so fearful in the face of this diagnosis,” Grams shares.

And because blood cancer treatment is so intense, nurses often build lasting relationships with the patients on the unit. “Our patients say they wouldn't go anywhere else. They often stay with us after their initial diagnosis then go home for outpatient treatment, but if they need to return to the unit—or they just come to visit— they're always excited to see us and we're excited to see them. On this unit, we really get the chance to get to know these patients well and it is our honor to care for them like family,” Lubline describes.

Learn more about blood cancer treatment at Sarah Cannon Cancer Institute at Swedish Medical Center or about the tower construction on our Web site.