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Honoring the Compassionate Care of Oncology Nurses

This month, Sylvester celebrates its oncology nurses, who are caregivers, innovators, educators and leaders.

Oncology research nurse Claudia Grandas

During Oncology Nursing Month every May, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center honors its oncology nurses for the extraordinary impact they have on their patients, their profession and cancer care.

Oncology nurses combine clinical expertise with genuine compassion, helping patients and their families navigate the physical and emotional challenges of cancer treatment. They work closely with patients, providing the comfort, guidance and reassurance they need to help them face their diagnosis and treatment. In turn, their patients impart invaluable lessons on life, perseverance and gratitude.

“At Sylvester, our approach extends beyond just treating the disease. We focus on treating the person,” said Jessica MacIntyre, D.N.P., MBA, APRN, NP-C, AOCNP, executive director for Sylvester’s clinical operations and president of the Oncology Nursing Society. “Oncology nurses forge unique bonds with patients, their families and caregivers. We are present for every phase of a patient’s care, from diagnosis through survivorship and end-of-life care, becoming an integral part of their extended family.”

Sylvester nurse Jessica Macintyre
Jessica MacIntyre
Douglas Houghton
Jeannette Garcia Slanker

The rapidly changing field of oncology requires nurses to stay abreast of cutting-edge treatments, medications and technologies to provide optimal care. They create a supportive environment, where patients feel comfortable expressing their concerns and fears, as they help them understand their diagnosis and treatment options and ensure that their voices are heard in the decision-making process.

“Sylvester’s oncology nurses are dedicated to patient care and academic scholarship,” said Douglas Houghton, DNP, APRN, ACNPC, NEA-BC, FAANP, UHealth’s associate chief nursing officer for advanced practice providers. “They are experts who love what they do, understand the value they provide and are committed to the best treatment of cancer possible.”

“It takes a special person to be an oncology nurse,” said Jeannette Garcia Slanker, DNP, APRN, FNP, PMHNP, CPON®, UHealth’s associate chief nursing officer for ambulatory clinics, infusion centers and pediatric services. “They are heroes who leave an imprint in the lives of the patients they care for long after the treatment has ended.”

We spoke with several of Sylvester’s oncology nurses to learn more about the pivotal role they play in shaping the future of cancer care.

Veesheshta Persad, BSN, RN, OCN

It is a true honor to help cancer patients during one of the worst times of their lives. I remember a single mom in her twenties who was terrified of all of the unknowns during her first round of chemotherapy for breast cancer. I held her hand and reassured her our medical staff would remain by her side. I became her chemo nurse until she triumphantly rang the bell. She said it was my kindness and our team’s support that gave her the courage to finish her treatment. It was a wonderful feeling. Our patients and their families are so appreciative and I look forward to coming to work every day to advocate for their care.

Veesheshta Persad, BSN, RN, OCN

My mother was an energetic, loving, tough lady with an unwavering zest for life. I was by her side during her battle with metastatic lung cancer to her brain and I wanted to help others through their cancer journeys by empowering them to ask questions about their diseases, self-manage their symptoms when possible and find ways to cope with and adapt to their changing bodies. I always remind my patients that they have the right to make their own decisions: more treatment, less treatment or no more treatment at all. I am there to provide ongoing care and support for whatever decisions they make. Caring for cancer patients isn’t merely a profession. It’s an honor.

Veesheshta Persad, BSN, RN, OCN

I am continuously inspired by the resilience and strength of the women who continue to care for their families, even while undergoing treatment. I had a patient with a difficult cancer to treat. The success was not that she was cured of her cancer, but rather the life that she lived. We helped her manage her symptoms with dignity, so she could spend time with her family until she passed. She was always uplifting, kind and caring. She helped me become a better oncology APRN, even in the most unexpected way, and I was lucky to be part of her medical team. I am privileged to collaborate with an exceptional group of nurse practitioners, nurses, administrators and attendings who provide unwavering support through every challenge and victory.

Javier Abreu Amador, BSN, MSN 
Oncology Nurse

Veesheshta Persad, BSN, RN, OCN

Working with cancer patients can be emotionally and professionally challenging, but it is also incredibly rewarding. We develop strong relationships with patients and their families when they are most vulnerable. They lean on us for support and rely on our expertise in navigating the complexities of their illness and treatments with compassion. When I witness a patient smile after recovering from a prolonged treatment, it is a wonderful reminder of the profound impact I have in their journey towards healing. I love my job!

Pepita Jean, Ph.D.(c), MSN, APRN, FNP-BC, BMTCN
Oncology Nurse

Veesheshta Persad, BSN, RN, OCN

The courageous blood and marrow transplant patients I have had the honor to care for are a constant reminder to never take the gift of life for granted. I am perpetually humbled by the gratitude they express during their most challenging moments. My work with these patients has inspired me to pursue a Ph.D. to address the paucity of persons of African ancestry in the stem-cell registry, as well as their lack of participation in research. Oncology nursing has been an incredible path and the right one for me. 

Claudia Grandas, BSN, RN
Clinical Research Nurse-3

Veesheshta Persad, BSN, RN, OCN

As a research nurse working with lymphoma clinical trials, my passion lies in educating both colleagues and patients. In addition to training new research nurses, I help patients understand the clinical trials and teach them about available resources and who to call for help. In return, their resilience has taught me to be grateful, present and maximize every moment. There is nothing more fulfilling than a giant smile or hug when they finish their treatments or receive the news that they are in complete response. My support continues outside of work, as captain for Team Hurricanes Research Nurses for the Dolphins Challenge Cancer event to raise funds for innovative cancer research at Sylvester. We must find a cure!

Cristina Herrera, DNP, MSN, APRN-BC, AOCNP
Director of Advanced Practice of Medical Oncology

Veesheshta Persad, BSN, RN, OCN

In my 23 years as an oncology nurse, I’ve witnessed remarkable strides in cancer care. Our patients are still filled with fear and anxiety, but cutting-edge treatments, innovative technology and promising clinical trials offer much more hope. We are constantly learning and growing, as we stay abreast of the latest breakthroughs in cancer care. Through frequent visits for treatments and symptom management, we have a unique opportunity to create special bonds with patients, guiding them with empathy and compassion. Their gratitude makes our work so fulfilling. I am privileged to be an oncology nurse.

Vicki Angulo-Vazquez, APRN, CPHON
Oncology Nurse

Veesheshta Persad, BSN, RN, OCN

I care for children with cancer, some of whom are enrolled in clinical trials, providing comfort and reassurance to families navigating the unimaginable. Working with these young warriors battling cancer is undeniably challenging. Yet, witnessing the resilience of these children is inspiring. A small gesture—a colorful bandage, a playful glove balloon—can uplift their spirits and bring a smile to their faces. When we ring the bell at the end of treatment, it’s a triumph not just for the family, but for all who supported them along their journey.

Tags: nursing, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center