By Theresa Edwards Makrush
Positive energy radiates from Joy Frank, RN. It’s a quality her patients and colleagues appreciate. This, combined with her decades of experience and certifications in oncology nursing and breast health, is what her patients and coworkers value.
“She’s the kind of nurse I’d want to take care of me,” said Dr. William Mendenhall, professor, UF department of radiation oncology. They’ve worked together for decades, starting out in the 1980s in Gainesville. “She’s available, competent and cheerfully optimistic.”
For the past six years, Joy has worked at the proton therapy institute, first with prostate patients and now with breast cancer patients. Her special training in breast health has benefited proton patients as they manage side effects, especially skin care in the area being treated.
“Joy has provided expertise to the team with her many years working in radiation oncology and research,” said Gail Sarto, RN, director of adult nursing. “She developed teaching tools for the staff to assure our patients with breast cancer have the right information in the right format. She worked with a team of nurses who developed the wound care protocols and this has greatly benefitted our patients affected by breast cancer.”
As Joy begins to transition to her retirement years, working part time since last July, she looked back on her career as a radiation oncology nurse. She recalled her on-the-job training as a radiation oncology nurse, learning how to do the treatments with the cobalt radiation machine. There were no radiation therapists at that time and nurses administered the daily treatments. As the technology has evolved, Joy said each advance has improved radiation therapy for patients.
“With proton therapy,” she said, “you can target the tumor more precisely without treating organs at risk. This means better tumor control and fewer late and acute side effects.” As an example she pointed to a recent study published by Dr. Julie Bradley, assistant professor, UF department of radiation oncology, that breast cancer patients, especially those with left-sided breast cancer, can be treated effectively with protons without any radiation dose to the heart and on average 50% less dose to the lungs than conventional radiation.
While she is making plans to retire, she said she will miss her patients. “That’s one of the hardest things I’ll have when leaving is not having the contact with all the patients. You develop a relationship with patients. We’re always in contact. Whenever a patient has an issue or something they’re not sure about, they call us. They know they can call us anytime. They develop that relationship with you.”