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Nursing Week: Highlighting BC Cancer nurses and their commitment to patients

May 9 to 13 is Nursing Week. This week recognizes the dedication, commitment, and compassion that nurses display every day in the face of an increasingly complex and challenging health care profession.
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In celebration of Nursing Week​​​​, BC Cancer nurses share what motivates them each and every day, their most memorable experience, and advice for the future generation of nurses.

Get to know Martha Cresswell, Nolan FrazierRenelda Girouard​Douglas MacMillanMary McCullum, Jane Pattillo​, and Jennifer Van Wynsberghe below. 

Martha Cresswell, clinical nurse educator, BC Cancer - Kelowna

Martha Cresswell is a clinical nurse educator at BC Cancer – Kelowna. She is grateful to work with an incredible group of colleagues who inspire her each and every day. 

“It is my privilege to work for BC Cancer and with their specialized group of nurses. Oncology nurses are an impressive group who focus on providing best patient care through education, certification and experience. BC Cancer nurses find themselves invested in the work they do, how they do it, and strive to achieve the best patient and clinic team outcomes."

“Oncology nurses provide sensitive and thoughtful care for their patients in the mist of navigating busy clinics. They are dedicated to their craft, generously mentor and share their knowledge, and together build strong oncology units."

Martha would like to give a special 'shout out' of thanks to the Clinical Nurse Educator team. This team supports the nursing practice at BC Cancer centres and the Community Oncology Network throughout the province.

Martha's advice for the future generation of nurses is “Be curious in everything you do."

Nolan Frazier, licensed practical nurse, systemic therapy, BC Cancer – Kelowna

Nolan Frazier is a licensed practical nurse in the Systemic Therapy department at BC Cancer – Kelowna. He has been with the Kelowna centre for over six years and highlights the importance of mentors in shaping his career. 

“I have been blessed to have so many nursing mentors in my life. Those wonderful nurses have shaped and reinforced my nursing practice. My advice to the future generation is to seek out nursing mentors. They will enhance your nursing career and motivate you. Also, never stop learning. Take as many educational opportunities as you can."

Nolan's mother played an integral role as a mentor in his nursing career. “One of those mentors happen to be my own mother, who was a nurse for 43 years. My first full-time nursing job was at the same hospital my mom worked at. She happened to orientate me for a few shifts. Firstly, who gets to work with their mom? Me! All that knowledge, experience, and care she had for others on full display. Over her career she did all those shifts, giving everything she had to others and still came home and gave 110 per cent to her own family. I was in awe."  

He also credits the importance of teamwork. “I would be nothing without my colleagues at BC Cancer who work tirelessly for our patients and each other." Nolan would like to acknowledge his LPN pioneers within BC Cancer: Barb B., Alyson M., Tish P., and Jessica K.

Renelda Girouard, clinical nurse leader, brachytherapy and radiation therapy, BC Cancer – Abbotsford

Renelda Girouard is a clinical nurse leader in the Brachytherapy and Radiation Therapy department at BC Cancer – Abbotsford. Renelda has a background in surgical and emergency nursing but finds most fulfillment in oncology nursing. 

“I find working with patients that have cancer to be a most rewarding population to work with. I have found patients facing cancer to be very grateful for the care we provide and it humbles me when they express such gratitude."   

She also loves the people she works with. "I am motivated by the amazing nurses I work with and am inspired by their commitment, dedication and enthusiasm."

Renelda shares this advice for the future generation of nurses: “Don't be afraid to explore nursing options. There are so many branches of nursing that if you aren't inspired where you currently work, explore other avenues. There is a niche for you."​

Douglas MacMillan, licensed practical nurse, radiation therapy, BC Cancer – Vancouver

Douglas MacMillan is a licensed practical nurse in the Radiation Therapy department at BC Cancer – Vancouver.

He finds motivation in his work through supporting patients through the difficult journey of a cancer diagnosis. “Visiting BC Cancer for the first time is not an easy thing. Patients have so many questions related to their cancer diagnosis. They need information about possible side effects and reassurance to “am I going to be ok?"

“When I am part of the patient's care, I aim to alleviate some of the fear and anxiety and hope to provide them with a path to improved physical and mental well-being. Hopefully, at the end of the appointment they leave feeling supported, heard, in better spirits, and with a care plan unique to their circumstances."

When it comes to advice to the future generation of nurses, Douglas shares “Expect to be ready for anything (COVID certain​ly taught us that). Also stay on top of your computer skills and know your worth."

Mary McCullum, nurse educator, BC Cancer Hereditary Cancer Program

Mary McCullum is a nurse educator with the BC Cancer Hereditary Cancer Program. She will be retiring from BC Cancer this month after 38 years of service.

Mary shared that it is the patients, families, and her colleagues that motivate her each and every day. 

“It's always about the people. My motivation as a nurse comes from a commitment to offer the very best of myself to the patients and families we serve. I've had a unique nursing role with the Hereditary Cancer Program and it's been a remarkable experience to learn from so many amazing patients, families and colleagues throughout my career."

When asked about advice for the future generation of nurses, Mary shared “Be open to new opportunities. When you find what you're looking for, embrace it and be the best nurse you can be."

“There are memories with specific patients and families from across the years that have stayed with me and shaped the nurse I am today," says Mary. “As I get ready to retire, I want to express what an honour it has been to be an oncology nurse and thank everyone for this adventure over the past 38 years."

Jane Pattillo, care coordinator, gynecologic oncology​, ​BC Cancer –​ Vancouver 

Jane Pattillo is a care coordinator in the Gynecologic Oncology department at ​BC Cancer –​ Vancouver.  ​

"As an oncology nurse, I can unequivocally say it is the strength and resilience of our patients that keeps me motivated. I'm blown away by what people take on with a cancer diagnosis, and every day I think to myself, if they can do that, I can do this, and I can try and do it better and better each day."

Jane is incredibly grateful for her colleagues at BC Cancer. "On-the-job learning takes a lot of time and patience from everyone and I've relied heavily on so many people here. I feel really lucky to be learning from some of the best nurses and doctors out there."  ​

Reflecting back on her career, Jane shares this advice to those new to nursing: "Don’t underestimate the importance of showing up to work each day. You can’t be there for patients if you’re not there." 

Jennifer Van Wynsberghe, clinical nurse leader, surgical suite, BC Cancer – Vancouver

Jennifer Van Wynsberghe is a clinical nurse leader in the Surgical Suite department at BC Cancer – Vancouver. 

“A simple thank you from a patient makes it all worth it. As nurses we care for people during what could be the most vulnerable time in their life. Knowing that I have helped them through this challenging time makes my heart happy."

When asked about a memorable experience from her nursing career, Jennifer shared a story about her time as an ICU nurse caring for a patient involved in a motor vehicle accident. The patient was in critical condition and not expected to survive as a result of her injuries. Jennifer stayed by her side and supported the family through an incredibly challenging time.

“I made sure that her husband and sister were present at her bedside at all times as it was important for them to be there for what could be the last days of her life. She made it through the toughest of days and spent months in ICU, followed by months of rehab. Eventually she managed to leave to ICU and in doing so I told her family that I would look for her one day to walk in and say hello once she recovered," shared Jennifer.

“Months later, the patient and her family did just that. Though she had no recollection of her stay in ICU, her family remembered. To this day, thinking back on this still brings tears to my eyes. That day she walked in she gave me a guardian angel and a hug. I will never forget that day."​

Thank you to all our amazing nurses across BC Cancer for going above and beyond to care for patients and their families facing cancer.

If you are interested in learning about nursing opportunities at BC Cancer, visit

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