Top nurse finds work rewarding

Susan Stottlemeyer, who works at the John A. Marsh Cancer Center, says her career has been influenced by her personal experience

Susan Stottlemeyer, who works at the John A. Marsh Cancer Center, says her career has been influenced by her personal experience

July 06, 2002|by EDWARD MARSHALL

For Susan Stottlemyer, helping treat cancer patients at the John R. Marsh Cancer Center has become a personally fulfilling endeavor.

This past May, Washington County Hospital recognized Stottlemyer's efforts by naming the registered nurse the 2002 Clinical Nurse of the Year.

"I was surprised and delighted. It was a great honor not only to receive the award but to be nominated by my colleagues," said Stottlemyer, 46, of Hagerstown.

Despite working with patients who suffer from a potentially devastating disease, Stottlemyer dismissed the notion that nurses should not become too emotionally attached.


"It's very rewarding. It can be very poignant," she said.

"Granted, it is sad when someone doesn't survive the disease process. No matter what, though, we pride ourselves on making the treatment process as painless as possible, both physically and emotionally."

Stottlemyer, who has been part of the Washington County Health System for 24 years, said her resolve and compassion for patients was born out of personal emotional triumphs and losses.

When Stottlemyer was a teenager her father died of Hodgkin's disease, an experience she said was difficult to get over. Her mother, 42 at the time, decided to go into nursing after he died.

Stottlemyer's decision to join the cancer center when it opened in 1996 had much to do with her family's experiences with cancer. Both of her daughters were diagnosed with leukemia, one in 1984 and the second in 1993.

The daughters underwent treatment separately at Johns Hopkins Medical Center for 21/2 years. Both are healthy and doing well.

"It influenced me very much," Stottlemyer said. "It's not just a job to me; I think it's my reason for being here.

"I like to think that every day I can make a difference in someone's life. It's why I became a nurse - to make a difference."

A major portion of Stottlemyer's role at the cancer center is educating patients on aspects of cancer treatment including screening strategies, side effects and nutritional and dietary guidelines.

The most important factor in treating patients is early detection, Stottlemyer said.

"It makes all the difference in the world. The cancers we have primarily been able to treat successfully have been those that were detected early," she said.

Becoming a nurse wasn't Stottlemyer's first career choice.

In the 1970s she intended to become a teacher but there was an abundance of teachers in Maryland at that time and Stottlemyer decided to go into nursing.

"This is by far the most enjoyable position I've had," she said. "This is where I want to end my career."

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