Special Honors: Lifetime Achievement Nurse goes to KarenRoesser. Photo by Jay Paul
While most of us were watching the Olympics in Sochi, Russia, Karen Roesser was in St. Petersburg, Russia, helping nurses learn more about oncology nursing and how they can provide better care. A representative of the Oncology Nursing Association, she worked with nurses from 15 different provinces. "I love to teach and see other nurses gain knowledge, become certified in oncology nursing and become more empowered in doing so," she says.
Roesser chose her career in seventh grade after watching nurses care for her brother, who had a severe form of scoliosis. "He spent his entire 10th-grade school year either in an acute hospital, rehab hospital or at home," she says, adding that she wanted to be a nurse so that she could "help others at a time when they were not able to do so. There are probably not too many people who knew their career path in middle school."
She views education as a vital element in any nurse's career, and she believes that nurses need to ensure their practice is always "current and evidence-based." Her penchant for continuous learning is evident in her work as clinical director of oncology practice at Thomas Johns Cancer Hospital, located on the Johnston-Willis Hospital campus. She has received several honors during her career, including the Oncology Nursing Certification's Advanced Oncology Certified Nurse of the Year award and the March of Dimes Award for Nurse Author and Researcher.
"Karen has been chiefly responsible for engaging her oncology nurses in active research," says Dr. Lawrence M. Lewkow, a hematologist-oncologist at the Virginia Cancer Institute. "She is the driving force and the glue that holds our cancer hospital together, and [she] has vaulted it into the forefront in Central Virginia."
Roesser may be a teacher, but she's also learned a lot about herself in working with cancer patients. "Each day, I realize how life can be changed by a diagnosis of cancer," she says. "In caring for patients, I do think about the fact that the person I am speaking to could be me. It does make me appreciate life every day."