'We Never Run Out of Hope'
What It's Like to Be a Pediatric Cancer Nurse
By Ashley Parrott
The Hematology/Oncology (H/O) floor at Cook Children’s is its own world. Bright green walls lead the way among the hustle and bustle of the daily routines of patients, families and doctors. But behind the miracles happening on the Hematology/Oncology floor is the dedication of pediatric nurses like Paige Cravens.
Though she has only been with Cook Children’s for two years, Cravens has quickly become a valued nurse on the H/O floor because of her genuine passion for children.
“Paige has one of the most caring and compassionate personalities on our floor,” Cook Children’s Hematology/Oncology Nurse Manager Jessica Williams Henry, RN said. “Whenever you meet her you can feel that her energy is positive and you feel safe with her.”
Although the stress and nature of a Hematology/Oncology nurse is demanding, Paige is known as a light to other nurses and patients on the floor.
“She’s really become a leader,” Williams Henry said. “It’s shifted our culture on the H/O floor because if it’s a bad day and Paige shows up, it’s instantly better because if she can see the positive in something then everyone else is going to try to see it too.”
The diagnoses on the H/O floor are serious and often require immediate treatment, but Paige is with her patients from beginning to end, offering support, encouragement and treating her patients as if they are her own family.
“I think my favorite thing to witness is the journey from diagnosis to completion of therapy,” Cravens, a registered nurse (RN), said. “When you admit a newly diagnosed child, the emotions in the room are heavy, as you can imagine. Through the tears and hard conversations, I always try to squeeze in some words similar to ‘I am not saying this will be easy, but I mean it when I say this place will become home and these people will become like family,’ and most often that is exactly what happens.”
Not only does Cravens understand the practices and general knowledge of nursing, she is able to recognize minor changes and is known to always push for more to ensure the best care for her patients.
“Paige is really proactive and a huge advocate for her patients,” Cook Children’s Nurse Manager Jordan Richter, RN, said. “She’s very in tune to her assessment skills and doing everything for the patient to keep them safe. Paige is just one of those nurses that you wish you could clone.”
Some may believe it is best to detach from emotions when working in a children’s hospital, however Cravens is known as a genuine nurse who will shed tears with heartbroken families, but also celebrate in the accomplishments of her patients.
“Paige will cry with a family, she’ll laugh with a family, she gets down at that level,” Richter said. “She’s raw with her emotions and families can tell she cares. She’s the definition of what anyone would want for a H/O nurse.”
The mere thought of an extended stay in a hospital is typically something most children would want to avoid, but the magic that happens at Cook Children’s is enough to change the stigma of a place where healing can happen.
“The kids are so resilient, it amazes me. They have to trade out going to school with hospital admissions, friends for nurses and doctors, but more often than not they come walking through the door with a big smile on their face,” Cravens said. “They face things that no person, no child, should ever have to go through, yet they still have joy. They have this will to fight, and they never give up. They find a way to overcome.”
Although miracles do happen, pain and loss also reside on the Hematology-Oncology floor.
“The difficult situations seem endless at times. Our patients and families experience so much loss in all senses of the word, from the loss of all normalcy, togetherness as a family, financial security, loss of hair to sometimes loss of life itself,” Cravens said. “Watching it all unfold rips your heart out. But hope never runs out and I think that is what sustains each of us. We watch whole towns come together in support, kids pushing past the impossible, fears conquered, faith restored and prayers lifted. There is beauty in that.”
For Cravens, a nursing career at Cook Children’s is more than just a job, it’s a family and a place where magic and miracles are real.
“We had a little girl who pretended to be Elsa, wig and all, who would call Cook Children’s her castle,” Cravens said. “She loved being at her castle, and when it came time for her last chemo, we all celebrated with posters and balloons. When she caught on that it was her last time coming in to stay at the castle, she kicked and screamed the whole way out. That really says something about this place.”