Oncology Nurses at Stony Brook University Hospital Share the Medicine of Love, Host Romantic Evenings for Their Patients
STONY BROOK, NY, February 16, 2015 – There’s a new dating hot-spot and it’s at Stony Brook University Hospital. A group of oncology nurses have been playing cupid, putting together a ‘date night’ for their patients right in their hospital rooms – with the hopes that these patients will forgot about having cancer, even just for a little while.
“It all originated from nurse Maggie Knight,” said Chaplain Elizabeth Meehan, “She came out of a patient’s room one day and said ‘let’s do date night’ so a group of nurses and I jumped into action with Nicole Wood, our unit’s social worker, and it all started from there.”
Maggie Knight, a nurse on 19-South, came up with that idea after noticing one of her patients seemed depressed and had been in the hospital for a few months. The patients on this unit are usually battling leukemia and lymphoma and are undergoing stem cell bone marrow transplants and aggressive chemotherapy.
“I walked out of his room and I thought, ‘Man, we have to make him feel more at home,’” said Knight, and that is when she had the idea.
This group – which comprises of several nurses, the hospital Chaplain, and the unit’s social worker— contacts the patient’s spouse/significant other and arranges a time when they can come into the hospital alone– free of children, family members and other visitors. The team finds out what the patient’s favorite food or meal might be and places an order from nearby restaurants. The set up the lunch or dinner with all the notions of romance— a bit of privacy, a delicious meal, roses, decorations, music and even some champagne flutes. The group has been doing so out of the kindness of their hearts since October – opening up their own wallets to fit the bill.
“Maggie and I brought dinner plates, silverware, champagne flutes and wooden roses,” said Meehan. “We decorate one of the hospital carts, set out the meal along with dessert and wheel it into the patient’s room. We also have a little blackboard where we write out the menu. And then we put a “do not disturb” sign on the door when we leave so that the couple can enjoy their time together.”
The team says the patients have been so surprised and deeply touched that some have broken-out into tears. “Date night helps patients feel more like themselves and less like patients,” says Nicole Wood, Licensed Master Social Worker, Stony Brook University Hospital, “It helps them connect with their significant others in a way that is not related to their cancer but to their relationships themselves. It’s so nice to be a part of that.”
Meg Pearse, whose husband was battling lymphoma, said the date helped them feel like they were normal, cancer-free people again.
“His hospital room was transformed into a cozy romantic setting with a table for 2,” said Meg Pearse. “It was a beautiful dinner and everyone came in to see our romantic room and wish us well. They made us feel so special and the date was just what we needed before our trip home to continue the healing process.”
56-year-old Richard Pearse was admitted to Stony Brook University Hospital in late October to receive aggressive chemotherapy treatment and then a Stem Cell Bone Marrow Transplant. After three long weeks this date night came to him as a huge surprise.
“That night, with my wife in the room, helped make us feel whole, ready to go back to my life,” said Richard Pearse. “It was an important part of my healing. I will never forget that date or the people who made it happen for us.”
For future patients, this group of nurses would like to enhance the date night experience by gathering other resources like musicians that volunteer their time in the hospital and possibly include a movie.
The team also takes a photo of the couple on their date and frames it for them as a keepsake – leaving the patient with something quite unique – a happy memory in their battle against cancer.
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